MAHONING COUNTY Projects panel hires staffers

The projects panel will be a countywide resource for economic development.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Creation of a special-projects division is an investment in Mahoning County's future, Commissioner Vicki Allen Sherlock says.
The four-person staff will work with county and other local government agencies to seek state and federal grants, Sherlock said. It will also coordinate and monitor grants to ensure that they're getting maximum use.
"It's really going to be a countywide resource," Sherlock said.
Commissioners created the division in August and have spent the past few weeks hiring staff. It's headed by Joseph Caruso, who worked as the county's special-projects coordinator in the mid-1990s before leaving to become Liberty Township administrator.
Caruso returned to the county last year, again as special-projects coordinator. The new division will now have three other employees, Sarah Lown of Youngstown and Suzanne Barbati and Annemarie DeAscentis, both of Boardman.
The special-projects division's budget is about $200,000 a year, which covers salaries, benefits, travel and office expenses, Sherlock said. It is funded with revenue from a 0.5 percent county sales tax.
Hailing move: Sandy Engle, Berlin Township trustee, and David Allen, commander of the Mahoning Valley Drug Task Force, said they think the special-projects division is a wise move.
Engle, who is president of the county's township trustees and clerks association, said most smaller, rural townships don't have the staff or expertise to research grant availability and apply for them.
"I think this will be an excellent tool for the townships," she said.
Allen said Caruso helped him successfully apply for grants in the past from the U.S. Department of Justice.
"I'm glad to see they're going to do this full-time," Allen said.
Sherlock said the division is available to help cities and villages as well. Commissioners have also been contacted by some nonprofit agencies wanting to use the division, she said.

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