By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- James Sutman Jr. knew he'd have parking problems when he decided to move the main office of his company into a downtown building.
However, Sutman didn't think he'd have to pay $350 in parking tickets during his first few months at the new location.
"I was optimistic that the city of Youngstown would work with me towards our common goal," he said. "I'm trying to be a big promoter of downtown."
What he does: Sutman, 28, is director of Iron and String Life Enhancement Inc., a company that provides services to mentally retarded and developmentally disabled people.
In late January, Sutman moved ISLE's main office into a 6,300-square-foot building at 12 S. Phelps St., between Boardman Street and Federal Plaza West. The company had been based in Struthers.
"The first place I looked is down here," said Sutman, a Youngstown native. "I've always been nostalgic about downtown ... the character of the property here is unmatched."
Most of South Phelps Street is lined with metered parking spots that are typically filled. A 30-minute loading and unloading zone is located in front of the building.
Police cars: However, Sutman said two unmarked Youngstown police cars were frequently parked in the loading and unloading zone.
As a result, he said, the drivers who dropped off his clients often had no place to park. Many parked illegally and received tickets, including the driver of a van for the Mahoning County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.
Sutman paid the parking fines.
"It's kind of unfair," said Mark Castro, a 29-year-old MRDD client who works for Sutman. "It's a very nice place here, but the parking's kind of messed up."
Called mayor's office: In early February, Sutman said he called the office of Mayor George McKelvey for help. However, McKelvey said he was unaware of Sutman's problems until he was informed of the situation by The Vindicator on Wednesday morning.
According to Sutman, McKelvey's office suggested he call Youngstown Councilman Artis Gillam Sr., D-1st. The 1st Ward includes downtown Youngstown.
Sutman then called Gillam and asked if the city could create two public handicapped parking spaces in front of ISLE's new office.
"That's all I'm looking for; I'm not looking for spots for myself," Sutman said.
Gillam responded by asking Sutman for a layout of the street. The councilman said he needed the layout to determine if it would be feasible to create the spaces.
Sutman said he sent the layout to Gillam soon after their conversation.
Doesn't have it: However, Gillam said he either misplaced or never received the information.
Sutman added that he has not heard from Gillam since he requested the layout.
On Wednesday, McKelvey met with Sutman to discuss the parking problems. After the meeting McKelvey said that he asked Youngstown Police Chief Richard Lewis "to be sensitive to the needs" of ISLE's clients.
Lewis said he did not know that the unmarked cruisers were parked in front of the ISLE office until he was called by The Vindicator Wednesday.
"If that's happening, we'll take care of it," he said.
McKelvey also said he would look into creating a handicapped drop-off zone in front of ISLE's office, and Gillam said that he still may sponsor a resolution to create the two handicapped parking spots.
Wants layout: However, Gillam said that before he takes any action on Sutman's request, he will need a copy of the street layout.
Sutman, meanwhile, said he's now confident that his parking problems will be addressed. He added that his devotion to Youngstown has not been diminished by his parking problems.
"I'm still really high on it," Sutman said.