The Issue 2 group put the downtown project on par with the paving of a road in Berlin or Bloomfield.
By ROGER G. SMITH
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The city expects to sue if a funding decision that puts the Federal Street reconstruction project in serious jeopardy isn't reversed.
The city is considering its options after the board that ranks projects for state Issue 2 funding snubbed the downtown project Monday.
Mayor George M. McKelvey called the process a charade and ripe for a court challenge.
Funding for project appears unlikely, but that won't be certain until Wednesday. That's when rankings made by the District 6 Public Works Integrating Committee will be matched with the $7.2 million available for Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
The decision to give the Youngstown project a low rank for regional significance outraged McKelvey.
That led to an often loud and acrimonious debate. There was yelling, finger-pointing, accusations and harsh words between McKelvey and several board members. He questioned their courage and integrity. They called him out of line.
Youngstown likely will lose $2.08 million in federal money for the project, McKelvey said. The $946,000 request for Issue 2 money was to be the city's required match for the federal grant and to cover other construction costs. The city doesn't see any other funding source.
"You threw away $2.08 million," he said. "I don't know how you sleep [well]."
Panel members said they didn't consider the project beneficial to the region. Richard Marsico, the board's chairman and Mahoning County engineer who also is a former city engineer, agreed.
"It would not have a significant impact," he said.
The group gave the city's request 10 of a possible 30 points for regional impact. That was tied with nine other projects for the lowest point total except for one. There are 62 projects under consideration.
The 10 points was on par with the regional impact the group gave to the repaving of single roads in Berlin and Bloomfield townships. A project on Canfield's West Main Street was given 20 points.
"There's something very wrong," said Carmen Conglose Jr., the city's deputy director of public works. "I can think of no other project that's as regionally important."
He cited the road's link to federal, state and local government buildings and Youngstown State University.
Board members made up their mind before the meeting not to fund the project, Conglose said. He thinks the decision is payback for the city's aggressive and successful pursuit of federal and Issue 2 dollars recently.
What it would do
The project would remove the Federal Plaza and rebuild the street between Phelps and Walnut streets, completely reopening Federal Street to traffic. Construction is to start this summer.
The project is ready except for the match, Conglose said. He called the project "highly, critically dependent on Issue 2 money." The city has no other money, he said.
The new half-percent city income tax has 20 percent dedicated to capital improvements, but McKelvey said the money must be used for equipment and vehicles, not road work.
McKelvey said he will speak with Mahoning County commissioners about their representative on the board, Sanitary Engineer Joe Warino. McKelvey accused Warino of leading the group in snubbing the plaza project.
Commissioners support the Federal Street project and Warino isn't representing their views, McKelvey said.
Warino said commissioners didn't have input into his opinion. Warino said he based his opinion on the lack of jobs gained or saved, combined with a large request. That would take away funding for several smaller projects, he said.
Commissioner Ed Reese said he and his colleagues do support the project. Reese wouldn't single out Warino, however. He pointed to the eight other members on the panel and the multi-step process used to determine funding.