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YOUNGSTOWN Panel weighs scrapping way Issue 2 money is disbursed



Published: Fri, February 14, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Youngstown officials threatened to sue if no money is allocated for the Federal Street reconstruction project.

By IAN HILL

And ROGER SMTIH

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS

AUSTINTOWN -- A committee was considering today whether to scrap the way state Issue 2 money was to be doled out this year for local infrastructure improvement projects.

The city of Youngstown demanded that the Federal Street reconstruction get a second look. The question was whether that would mean bringing the project review process for all communities back to Square One.

The District 6 Public Works Integrating Committee was expected to vote on Issue 2 money today at the Eastgate Regional Council of Government offices in Austintown.

Projects with the greatest number of points are the first to be funded. The committee continues awarding state money based on points until it cannot fully fund any additional projects.

Sanitary Engineer Joe Warino, Mahoning County commissioners' representative on the committee, asked the committee to reconsider its position on Federal Street.

Warino had made the original motion Monday issuing the Federal Street project 10 out of 30 points for regional importance. Those points have been in dispute.

Warino said he felt the commissioners had been wrongfully accused of being against the Federal Street project, as a result of his initial motion.

He said he had based his opinion on the lack of jobs gained or saved by the project, combined with the city's large request. The project cost is $946,000.

Reaction

When Warino made the motion to reconsider, there was a quiet gasp from everyone in the room.

Several committee members asked if Warino's motion meant all projects would have to be reconsidered. The committee was arguing that point late this morning.

Carmen Conglose Jr., the city's deputy director of public works and a committee member, seconded the motion and read a list of demands from the city.

The city wanted the committee to reconsider the points it gave Federal Street for both regional importance and traffic count. Zero points had been received for traffic count in part because the statistics were not current, dating from the 1970s, officials said.

"These acts are demanded as the committee has abused its discretion," Conglose said.

City officials have threatened to sue the committee if they do not receive funding for the Federal Street reconstruction project.

Committee alternate John Smythe loudly disagreed with Conglose. "I take umbrage that every time someone disagrees with Youngstown, the position is that everyone's opposed to Youngstown," Smythe said. "We evaluate and re-evaluate until Youngstown gets what it wants."

The project would remove the Federal Plaza and rebuild the street between Phelps and Walnut streets, reopening Federal Street to traffic. Construction is to start this summer.

Here was the situation

It looked as if Youngstown would be four points shy of receiving the funds for the Federal Street project.

The committee awarded the project a total of 68 points over the last few weeks based on several criteria, including regional importance.

The committee also awarded points to the other 61 projects seeking state funds in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

Projects that were awarded at least 72 points are expected to receive funding.

This year, the city is expected to receive $193,056 for a sewer project in McGuffey Heights.

Mahoning County Engineer Richard Marsico, who serves as committee chairman, said he doesn't think the committee harbors animosity toward the city. He noted that the committee has voted to give the city large Issue 2 grants for projects in the past.

Marsico said he voted to give the Federal Street project 10 points because he didn't believe city officials' contentions that the project would help draw new businesses downtown.

He added that he felt the committee could fund several smaller projects throughout the two counties with money that would have gone to the Federal Street project.

Committee member Charles Tieche, Canfield's city manager, said that he had looked at each project before the meeting to determine how many points each should receive for regional importance. Tieche added that his decisions are based on the merits of the projects.

Tieche noted that he believed the city didn't help itself Monday when Mayor George M. McKelvey loudly chastised the committee for its decision on the Federal Street project.

"Did it sway my vote and convince me to vote for 10? It probably did," he said.

Since 1989, the District 6 Public Works Integrating Committee has decided which local infrastructure improvement projects received state Issue 2 money.

Here are the Mahoning and Trumbull County communities that have received the most Issue 2 funds between 1989 and 2001:

Trumbull County, $22,670,460; Mahoning County, $20,911,631; Youngstown, $14,754,268; Warren, $7,896,318; Niles, $4,922,924; Canfield city, $4,501,731; Struthers, $3,523,016; Cortland, $3,000,540; Campbell, $2,930,758; Girard, $2,519,756; Boardman, $2,481,475; Lordstown, $2,338,698; Hubbard city, $2,330,476; Austintown, $2,300,299; Sebring, $2,220,591.




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