The city's financial position isn't strong enough for new buildings, the mayor said.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Municipal Judge Robert Douglas wants city council's support for having the city borrow money for a $4.9 million municipal court building downtown.
He said the court's current 13,000-square-foot city hall space, which houses three judges, is inadequate and the court needs 30,000 square feet. "The existing space is really out of the question," he said.
The judge presented his request to council's buildings and grounds committee Wednesday, saying that constructing a new building would be cheaper in the long run than leasing space. He said the $4.9 million cost estimate was provided by Olsavsky-Jaminet Architects of Youngstown.
Judge Douglas noted that the court had received and evaluated three proposals under which the city would lease space in either new or existing buildings or a combination thereof, all of which would cost more than $5 million over 20 years.
Proposals: One of the proposals, issued by the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp., would involve demolition of four dilapidated CIC-owned buildings on Federal Plaza West behind city hall for a new structure, which would be attached to the former Kress Building, with the complex possibly connected to the police station portion of city hall for transfer of prisoners.
Another proposal, which came from John Giannios, would have provided for lease of an enlarged, former tire dealership on Front Street.
A third proposal, which came from Anthony Cocca, was for a new building behind Anthony's on the River restaurant at the foot of Oak Hill Avenue.
Alden Chevlen, executive director of CIC, and Councilman Rufus Hudson, D-2nd, chairman of Council's buildings and grounds committee, said they'd support demolishing the CIC-owned buildings on Federal Plaza West and having the city's own municipal court building constructed there.
Mayor's view: Not so fast, said Mayor George McKelvey. He acknowledged the inadequacies of the municipal court space and of the entire city hall building and said it would be ideal to have new buildings for both. But the mayor said the municipal court generates $120,000 a year from fines, an amount inadequate to pay the debt service on a new court building.
The money would be borrowed through the sale of bonds. Any bond issue would have to be approved by the city's board of control, which includes the mayor, finance director and law director, he said.
"The challenge that a community faces is how to pay for the facilities," the mayor said, adding that he doesn't think the city's current financial position is strong enough to build any new buildings.
McKelvey said spending money on neighborhood improvements is a higher priority for him than spending it on new quarters for city officials.
"We've got to look at the whole picture and look at all the needs and prioritize them to see what we can do -- what projects we can realistically take on right now," Finance Director Barbara Burtner told the committee.