Petitions have been circulated to stop the Streetscape project as it's being presented.
By STEVE SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
NEWTON FALLS -- By the narrowest margin, city council has approved going forward with a controversial $3 million downtown redevelopment project.
It was a victory for the project, popularly known as Streetscape, but it is uncertain how long the victory will last.
Two of the three councilmen who voted to approve the ordinance, Lester Irwin and Thomas McKee, were the subject of a recall today in a special election, in large part because of their support for the project.
Streetscape would bring new streets, sidewalks and lighting to a downtown portion of Broad Street. Those opposing it say it is a needless expense and inconvenience.
Petitions for a referendum to overturn the ordinance began circulating immediately after Monday's council meeting.
The ordinance, which would allow Streetscape to be put out to bid, goes into effect in 30 days.
"We will do what we have to do to stop Streetscape as it is now being presented," said Bud Fetterolf, who circulated the petitions which prompted today's recall election.
"It is $3 million for a beautification project. There is no benefit."
Councilmen Irwin, McKee and Ralph Gillespie voted in favor of the project, which they say will attract new business to downtown.
"Most of the people say they support the work that is being done, but they say we have been keeping secrets from the people so far," said Irwin.
Irwin said the city attorney has approved any closed-door meetings to discuss the project.
The version of Streetscape approved Monday does not contain any of the cuts suggested by the project engineer to cover a $300,000 shortfall in grant funding.
Marcia Cunningham, city finance officer, said council planned to fill the shortfall through other grants or city funds.
Newton Falls ended 2001 with $1 million left in its general fund, she said.