YOUNGSTOWN Deadline looms for project

The board has less than three weeks to decide on the new West Elementary School.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Time is running short for the board of education in its effort to begin construction next spring for the new West Elementary School at Schenley Park.
Steven L. Ludwinski, senior project manager for Heery International Inc., said the board has only until Sept. 10 to order its architect to proceed with or halt the West Elementary School project. Heery is managing the $182.5 million, six-year city schools construction and renovation project.
Ludwinski spoke Wednesday at a joint meeting of city council's education and park and recreation committees and members and top-level staff of the board of education.
The meeting was called after councilmen expressed reluctance to provide 4 acres of city-owned land for the West building at Schenley Park while the board has a lawsuit pending against Corrections Corp. of America and the city in a dispute over tax breaks the city gave CCA. The corporation is the owner of the prison on Hubbard Road, which has been empty for one year.
Members of the board of education had unanimously said in a meeting last week that they were opposed to dropping the lawsuit, but city and school officials emphasized in Wednesday's meeting that lawyers on both sides of the suit are working on settling it.
As West Elementary is designed now, the 4 acres of city land would be combined with 5 acres of board-owned land at Schenley Park to build the new two-story school.
Further discussions
Councilman James E. Fortune, D-6th, chairman of the parks and recreation committee, said he hopes the two council committees can meet jointly again Tuesday to discuss the city's position.
City Councilman Richard Atkinson, R-3rd, said early in the meeting that the lawsuit puts the board and the city in an adversarial position but later adopted a more conciliatory tone.
"I'm willing to work with you. The children are the kids of the citizens that we represent, so we represent the same people. So I think we have a vested interest, all of us, in the school system. The school system is important to the growth of the city," he told school officials.
The board's lawyer, Ted Roberts, urged city officials to separate the lawsuit from the schools construction project.
"Both the board of education and Youngstown City Council represent the same constituency -- the same children of this community. We are talking tonight about a future opportunity for this community," he said.
"I think we can address the benefits of this future opportunity even while other lawyers work to resolve the past disputes on another issue between us," Roberts told the group.

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