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MAHONING RIVER Authority plans to fund cleanup as funds allow



Published: Thu, February 24, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The board also approved contracts to develop an airport master plan.

VIENNA -- The Western Reserve Port Authority approved a nonbinding letter of agreement to sponsor the proposed $100 million Mahoning River cleanup, but stopped short of committing dollars.

"It's willingness dependent on funds," Daniel Keating, the authority's lawyer, explained Wednesday.

The next step is for local governments to provide matching funds needed to get federal dollars for the project, now moving into the preconstruction, engineering and design phase.

"It's going to be a step-by-step process. But it appears our board is the only one that has overall authority to administer this project," noted board member William Kelly.

"We are proceeding, but we are proceeding cautiously," Keating said. "We don't have the money to fund it in total, but we will proceed in phases."

The port authority also doesn't have the personnel on board to take on the project and will look to the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments for technical help.

Federal funds

Signing on as the project sponsor lets the port authority obtain federal funds. Eastgate, Keating explained, would make sure the local match is in place before the authority signs off on each design phase.

The authority also is working with U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan's staff to see if in-kind services from local companies can count toward the local share of the $13 million pre-engineering and design phase. The local share is 25 percent of that, and most of it is already lined up, said John R. Getchey, Eastgate's executive director.

"I think we have to move forward in this Valley," said board member Clarence Smith in endorsing the river effort.

The port authority was asked last summer to become lead local partner in a plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the river. The request came from the corps and Eastgate.

The corps is required to have a local partner with the power to both put on taxes and take land by eminent domain. The port authority is the only body that has these powers in both Trumbull and Mahoning counties.

The port authority, which runs the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, eventually would be responsible for raising roughly $35 million that will not be covered by the federal government and for buying 13 riverside sites needed for the dredging project.

The proposal to dredge contaminated soil and remove dams from Leavittsburg in Trumbull to the Pennsylvania line in Mahoning County has been under study since 1998. The dredging would remove toxic manufacturing sediment.

To come up with the $35 million, the authority could seek state grants, solicit money from county commissioners, or search out other funding sources, such as revenue from the special Mahoning River license plate.

Other business

Also Wednesday, the port authority selected two consultants to assemble an airport master plan. Using 95 percent federal funds, about $500,000 will go to R.W. Armstrong of Cleveland and Landerum & amp; Brown of Cincinnati for more than a year's worth of work.

They will inventory all airport facilities, assess passenger and cargo demand, do general aviation activity, do an in-depth financial program and make sure the master plan reflects the needs and desires of the community.

The board approved its 2005 budget, projecting total income at $1,135,793 and expenses at $1,121,262. That's a drop from 2004 receipts of $1,249,056 and disbursements of $1,227,170.




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