YOUNGSTOWN Cuts in social services to fund Route 422 work

The approach produces $1.9 million in paving that will cost the city $1.15 million.
YOUNGSTOWN -- City council will cut $150,000 from social service agencies to get U.S. Route 422 repaved.
The $150,000 will be the 20-percent match required by the Ohio Department of Transportation. ODOT handles U.S. routes. The project this summer will total $750,000.
Council members decided Wednesday that the project was too important to forgo. The city faced losing the 80 percent ODOT funding. The match had to be made by March 10.
"It's just a matter of how you view the big picture," said Carmen Conglose Jr., the city's deputy director of public works.
The $150,000 will come from federal money handled by the city Community Development Agency. That agency funds housing, neighborhood development and social agencies.
The city faced digging into its annual street repaving budget to fund the project. The city expects to spend about $1 million this year on paving streets. Each city ward stood to lose about $20,000 in paving to fund the match.
Instead, the CDA approach produces $1.9 million in paving that will cost the city $1.15 million.
The project will include most of Route 422 from the Girard city line to Himrod Avenue.
Conglose told council members that many local roads need paving worse than Route 422. Passing up 80 percent ODOT funding would be hard, too, he said.
Jay Williams, CDA director, said the agency could keep housing and neighborhood funding stable by cutting social service spending.
Council's first obligation is to basic city services such as roads, not social service agencies, said Richard Atkinson, R-3rd, CDA committee chairman.
He has directed council recently away from spending CDA dollars on social agencies. Instead, such spending has turned toward core issues, such as housing.
Council members differed on whether they would sacrifice paving local roads to get Route 422 done if pressed.
Atkinson and Artis Gillam Sr., D-1st, said they would. Ron Sefcik, D-4th, said the road is an important main route into the city. He couldn't skip paving any streets in his ward, however, he said.
Members were unanimous in complaining about ODOT's requiring the 20-percent contribution.
ODOT fully funds paving projects in unincorporated areas. The agency isn't required by law to maintain state or U.S. routes inside cities. Budget constraints led ODOT to develop the contribution policy, which applies statewide.
Council members said local leaders should lobby state lawmakers to change ODOT's mandate.

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