MAHONING COUNTY Sales tax funds grants to local communities

Two communities are using their money for construction of fire stations.
YOUNGSTOWN -- For years, rescue crews in Beloit have been frustrated by sometimes having to wait for a train to pass before being able to respond to calls on the village's south side.
Fire Chief Scott Dean said the fire department, on Fifth Street, is on the north side of a Norfolk & amp; Southern Railroad track that bisects the village. If the department receives a call to a site on the south side of the tracks and a train is rolling through, crews can't get across.
"Our wait isn't usually that long, but it's long enough when it comes to saving lives," he said, noting that it happens five to 10 times a year.
Thanks to a grant from Mahoning County commissioners, trains soon will no longer cut off rescue crews from responding.
Commissioners were expected to hand out the second round of grants today under a program funded with county sales tax revenue.
Help for Beloit: Among the grants is $121,000 for Beloit to build a supplemental fire station and ambulance garage on the south side of the tracks for storage of one pumper truck and an ambulance.
If the grant is received soon, the new station could be built by the end of summer, Dean said.
"I'm really pleased with the diversity of the projects this year," said Commissioner Vicki Allen Sherlock. "It's interesting to see the needs in the different communities."
Set aside for communities: Commissioners started the program as an incentive for voters to approve a 0.5 percent sales tax in 1999. A portion of the tax is set aside each year for community projects.
"I look at it as a promise kept to the taxpayers of Mahoning County," Sherlock said. Commissioners doled out a total of $1,210,500 in grants this time around.
The county is divided into seven funding districts based on geography, population and common development goals. Each district is to receive either $100,000 or $200,000 a year for five years, to be spent on projects submitted by participants.
Communities can either share the money or agree to spend it on common projects.
Sherlock said she's encouraged that some communities are combining the county funds with money from other sources for large projects.
Milton project: One such project is in Milton Township, which received a $60,500 county grant toward construction of a fire station.
Township Trustee James Donithan said the money will be coupled with income from a fire levy approved by township voters last year to pay for the $448,200 project.
The building will be on property behind the township hall on Mahoning Avenue and will house the fire, police and road departments and administrative offices, Donithan said.
"Right now we've got nothing," he said. "Our equipment sits outside 90 percent of the time."
He said the township started its own fire department in January after contracting with Craig Beach for fire protection services for years.
When Craig Beach asked for $16,500 last year, the township decided it would be more economical to start its own department, Donithan said.

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