BY MARYALICE MELI MAMELI@NCNEWSONLINE.COM





Ellwood City's business community told borough council it wants to be supported, not thwarted. "There's no incentive to being in business," Mary DiCaprio, owner of Blocher's Jewelers, 507 Lawrence Ave. told council at Monday's meeting. "Our efforts get fined, cited or we're made to pay a fee." Merchants have complained they lose money because customers, worried their parking meters will expire, leave before finalizing a sale and don't return. Rocky Ierino, owner of Rock's Jungle, 401 Lawrence Ave., said he was ticketed for parking in an area he has used for years. Mayor Don Clyde noted parking there violates the sidewalk ordinance. "My place has got robbed five times in the past three months," Ierino said. "Haven't the cops got better things to do than write tickets?" Patti Kuhn, owner of Posies By Patti, 707 Lawrence Ave., said she and other merchants formed Businesses of Vision and Action a year ago to make it easier for people to shop, "then someone ordered me to take my cart off the sidewalk. I'm losing business because people can't see that I'm there." Clyde said having signs, carts or tables on the sidewalk in front of businesses is a violation of the current sidewalk ordinance. "If we can put things out and look inviting, we can make the town look inviting," Kuhn said. Such a look can attract new businesses to town as well as shoppers, she said Council president Glenn Jones noted council has discussed amending the ordinance to allow merchants to display some items on the sidewalk as long as passage is not blocked. However, such an amendment would take at least two months to enact. Kuhn asked if the sidewalk ordinance would be enforced during the sidewalk sale planned for June 30 and July 1. Jones said merchants will be allowed to display merchandise on the sidewalk as they did during last year's Fourth of July event. "We are concerned business owners," said Sandy Filippone, co-owner of Sportswear Graphics, 601 Lawrence Ave., "and we're not going away." She thanked Clyde for conducting a cleanup of the entrances to the borough at the end of last month but asked council to enforce the sign ordinance. "Vinyl signs should be temporary; with the way they flap, it looks like a carnival," Filippone said. "And old signs (at businesses that are closed) should be gone and what about signs that hang over the sidewalk. I was told I couldn't put one up like that and then I see a new one." Jones said the borough will look into the problem with signs. Greg Ottaviani, owner of Big Dawgs Bar and Grill, 708 Lawrence Ave., said he paid $25 for a building permit, had RAR Engineering Co. draw plans for a deck at the rear of his property, then learned he must pay the borough an additional $535. The new state uniform construction code requires certified inspectors to approve all new construction. CodeSys, the borough's inspector, charges a base fee of $350 to do a commercial plan review. Tim Keller of CodeSys explained council could waive the company's fee to business owners but the company still would receive $350. The borough, not the business owner, would pay it. Ottaviani said such high fees may hinder other business owners from making improvements to their properties. Jones said the borough may consider a graduated fee scale, depending on the project. Keller said that would mean re-negotiating the borough's contract with CodeSys. Councilman Dom Viccari said there has to be more and better communication between the business community and the borough. "Call the manager; call council members."



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