YOUNGSTOWN McCrory remodel on hold for now

Council approved creating a social worker position in the police crisis intervention unit.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Two million of the city's federal dollars for a no-interest loan to remodel the former McCrory's building downtown isn't going anywhere yet.
City council voted 5-2 Wednesday to appropriate the money. Six votes, however, were needed to approve the issue immediately. The legislation now moves to the second of three readings. A simple majority would pass the item on third reading.
Council has one more meeting scheduled in two weeks before its summer break. Special meetings for specific agenda items during the break, however, aren't unusual.
John R. Swierz, D-7th, and Rufus Hudson, D-2nd, both critics of the loan from the start, voted against it.
Each said they don't plan to change their mind until the bank proposing the project identifies tenants. The loan would be for Metropolitan National Realty Holdings, the real estate development arm of Metropolitan National Bank.
Each councilman is uncomfortable tying up $2 million of the city's federal loan money on speculation.
"The perception is bad. It doesn't look good," Hudson said.
Swierz is worried that the bank will use the loan and then sell the building if it doesn't get tenants.
Lack of approval means the McCrory's project will wait, said David Bozanich, deputy city finance director.
Bank's plans: Metropolitan wants to use the loan to renovate the vacant, 90-year-old, three-story building next to the bank's Metropolitan Tower building for office or retail use. Metropolitan, which bought the building last year for $100,000 and already replaced the roof, has prospects interested in the building but no commitments.
The loan would pose little or no risk to the city or taxpayers because the bank must provide an irrevocable letter of credit guaranteeing repayment on demand.
The city isn't allowed to keep interest on federal money it loans out, which is why the loan is no-interest.
The McCrory's project would be the largest single private investment in downtown office space in 10 years.
Social worker: Council did approve creating a social worker position in the police crisis intervention unit that will pay $25,000 a year.
The social worker will help crime victims in-house who need services for their problems. Now, victims who need such help are referred to other agencies and sometimes don't follow up, said Detective Sgt. Delphine Baldwin Casey, commander of the crisis unit. Unaddressed social problems often end up coming back through the criminal justice system, she said.
The social worker was one suggestion from a task force on violence against women that Mayor George M. McKelvey formed. The task force, which still is at work, was formed after a report outlined a high number of black women murdered in the city.

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