NEW CASTLE Council to pick bank for project

The city wants to take over portions of Mill, East Washington and West Washington streets from the state.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Initial plans to revitalize downtown will be set in motion this week by city council.
Council plans to choose one of four banks at Thursday's meeting to give the city a $2 million line of credit. The money will help to jump-start street resurfacing and sidewalk work on Mill and East Washington streets this summer.
It will be paid back to the bank with the $5 million state grant the city was promised last year, Mayor Timothy Fulkerson said.
First Merit Bank offered the lowest lending rate at 1.25 percent minus the prime rate, he said.
Partnership: The street work is part of a public-private partnership to improve downtown. A private developer will restore several buildings, including one that housed the first theater owned by the Warner brothers, Youngstown natives who went on to own a Hollywood movie studio, as part of the project.
The city will pay for a complete overhaul of utilities and resurfacing of Mill, East Washington and West Washington streets, all now owned and maintained by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
City officials say they want to take ownership of portions of those streets to speed up planned resurfacing work.
Fulkerson said the city plans to use all of PennDOT's resurfacing standards but won't have to go through the state's permitting process if the streets are locally owned.
City officials say they could get as much as $40,000 from the state through its road turnback program. Fulkerson said he wants any money from that program to go into the revitalization project fund.
The city wants to take East Washington Street from the Neshannock Creek Bridge to Jefferson Street; West Washington Street from Jefferson Street to the Columbus Innerbelt; and Mill Street from East Washington Street to Falls Street. The rest of those roadways will remain state roads.
Restoration: Work on restoring Kennedy Square to its 1930s look will also start this summer.
The city was awarded a $191,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation last year to refurbish the area, which was built and landscaped by Works Progress Administration workers in the 1930s.
Council members at Tuesday's caucus meeting saw work specifications put together by architect Larry Hecky and engineer Gary Chewy.
Hecky, who specializes in historical restoration, said they want to put 48 sandstone posts, each standing about 3 feet tall, on the exterior of the square. Posts in the center of the square will be replaced. A 16-inch-high wall and a large chain will connect the outside posts, he said. Granite curbs and new light posts will also be part of the restoration. Plans call for the fountain to be cleaned and sealed.
Work on the square should begin sometime in July and be done before winter, Fulkerson said.
The plans call for all of the trees in the square to be replaced. Councilwoman Patricia May said the city tree commission agreed that new trees should be planted when they learned that most of the current tree roots will be destroyed by the restoration work.

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