YOUNGSTOWN Council discusses site pick for arena

Council's preferred site is environmentally clean and requires no demolition.
YOUNGSTOWN -- City council has decided that the land along the Mahoning River between the South Avenue and Market Street bridges is its preferred site for a civic center.
Councilman James E. Fortune Sr., D-6, finance committee chairman, announced council's preference Wednesday evening during a public meeting between council and a majority of the executive committee of the arena board. The site was one of six that had been studied for the project, which is expected to cost more than $40 million. Federal funding is $26.8 million.
"So far, everything has turned up positive on that site as council has seen it. We think that is the best site at this time," Fortune said, adding that council would investigate further if any problems arise. "We don't have anything cemented in place as to taking the property at this point. We don't have in hand the title to that property," he added.
Fortune said the site is being recommended because the majority of those speaking at a recent public hearing favored it. He also said it is environmentally clean and does not require demolition or costly asbestos abatement.
Leonard Schiavone, arena board chairman, said the board hasn't discussed reactions from the public hearing.
"Council has made it clear all along that it was its prerogative to make the selection," he said. "We all understand that. We agreed to that going into this project," Schiavone added.
Mayor George McKelvey had expressed concern that such an announcement from council might drive up land prices, and Fortune acknowledged that this might occur. But Fortune said he thought the public should know where council stands.
Schiavone said that council members had only informally discussed site selection with arena board members.
If a developer willing to invest additional money in the project comes forward, council could discuss the developer's preferred site, Fortune said.
Council appropriated $100,000 to the Civic Center Development Corp., which is the formal name for the arena board, and authorized the city's board of control to rent office space in the city-owned Wick Building to that corporation for $1 a year for up to five years.
Council President Charles Sammarone and Councilmen Artis Gillam, D-1, and Rufus Hudson, D-2, stressed the importance of a contract between council and the arena board to specify the responsibilities of both.
Robert Bush, city law director, said his department is working on a rough draft.
The 13-member arena board will meet at 4:30 p.m. today in the City Centre One basement conference room.

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