ARENA Board tells council it was denied input

YOUNGSTOWN -- As arena board members told a city council committee they felt left out of the facility's site-selection process, council members made it clear the decision was council's to make.
Councilman Richard Atkinson, R-3rd, however, said council made a mistake by not including the board more in the site-selection process.
"I would like to apologize to the board. I think this was an error on our part," Atkinson said Monday.
Board members have been upset with the process that led to a recommendation by the finance committee that the full council pass a resolution Wednesday naming the site between the Market Street and South Avenue bridges as the home for the proposed $40 million arena.
The other main site being discussed was the Western Reserve Transit Authority Federal Station on West Federal Street. Council is expected to pass the resolution Wednesday, but lawmakers have the power to select another site.
Quotable: "We feel council did not involve us in a proper manner," said board chairman Leonard Schiavone. "We're not here to debate the site. We have some intelligent, responsible people on this board who could've added good input."
Schiavone said that although the board does not necessarily disagree with the selection of the site, it feels it was unfairly left out of the decision-making process.
Council established the arena board to organize and then operate the proposed facility.
Schiavone added he thinks the city might be going too fast with the project. He said the city should probably gather more information about potential investors and arena uses before going any further.
Board member Dr. William Binning, professor and chairman of political science at Youngstown State University, also said he is concerned about finding investors and determining the arena's uses.
"You could build it in the river for all I care as long as it has cash flow," Binning said.
U.S. Rep. James Traficant Jr. of Poland, D-17th, has secured $26.8 million in federal funds for the project. Some money will come from the state, but the city needs to come up with the rest or find a private investor or investors.
Move forward: Councilman Rufus Hudson, D-2nd, said he favors moving forward.
"We are always criticized for dragging our feet on things. Now, we are being criticized for going too fast. I don't think I can win in this scenario," Hudson said. "If [the board] does not have a problem with the site, let's move on."
Finance committee chairman James E. Fortune, D-6th, said the board always knew the site selection was council's decision and he also did not want to delay the project.
"I feel strongly about where we're at," Fortune said.
Mayor George M. McKelvey said council and the board should focus on finding investors rather than worrying about the site because the city would like to have the property even if the arena goes elsewhere.
"Get the private sector to the table," he said.
Schiavone said he and the board will not have ill feelings toward council. "We're here to cooperate," he added.

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