There are not enough city police officers to patrol 11 housing properties.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County deputy sheriffs could replace city police officers as protectors of Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority's low-income properties.
In the past, a handful of city officers composed the YMHA patrol and worked solely on YMHA properties. A U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant pays for "extraordinary," not routine police service.
But most of the $200,000 YMHA grant for 2004 wasn't used by city police and the $200,000 grant for this year is on hold. YMHA has seven housing properties in the city and four outside it.
In 2004, city police worked YMHA details, primarily at the Westlake Terrace Homes, on an overtime basis. In late November, that type of expenditure was determined to be in error.
Police Chief Robert E. Bush Jr. said he doesn't have enough officers to assign the same ones to a YMHA patrol. He had hoped to get approval to hire new officers.
Bush, Finance Director David Bozanich and Councilman Richard Atkinson, D-3rd, met last week to discuss the possibility of hiring police. Bozanich said Monday that the level of police service in the city is being maintained and a budget analysis of all funds will be presented to council within 10 days or so for discussion about hiring.
Bozanich said he proposed to YMHA the idea of using Mahoning County deputy sheriffs instead of city police. He said it is something that will be worked on this week.
"The county is also eligible to fulfill the requirements under that grant agreement," Bozanich said. "With the county having massive layoffs coming up, we think it might make sense for the county to be able to provide the police services [YMHA] is looking for."
Failure of a half-cent sales tax in November 2004 means Sheriff Randall A. Wellington must lay off deputies, possibly as many as 120. On Dec. 30, 2004, Mahoning County commissioners gave the sheriff a $3.11 million temporary appropriation until April, which will keep 173 deputies assigned to the jail.
Jail conditions, primarily understaffing, are the subject of a federal civil rights lawsuit pending in Akron federal court.
Bozanich, meanwhile, stressed that no decision has been made to use deputies instead of city police for YMHA patrol.
"Those [deputies] are trained and they're ready to go right now," Bozanich said. "Let me re-emphasize, though, that it's premature to say whether it's feasible or not feasible. We're working through the issue. If our guys can work with their guys and everybody can cooperate, maybe it's a way for a bunch of people to avoid being without income for a while."
The finance director said he spoke to Mahoning County Commissioner John A. McNally IV to see if it's a workable solution.
McNally said Monday that he will discuss the idea of substituting deputies for city police with Eugenia Atkinson, YMHA director and the councilman's wife, when she returns from California.
The Atkinsons, Bush and Detective Sgt. Pat Kelly, head of the Street Crimes Unit, were in San Diego on Monday for a HUD conference and could not be reached.
The councilman has said he wants to know why the YMHA grant can't be spent because he's trying to revitalize the Westlake neighborhood and, to do that, people must feel safe. Westlake, on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, is in his ward.
The chief has said that the 2004 grant has been extended until June. He has until then to spend the remaining $159,000 by assigning the same officers to the YMHA beat.
If the $159,000 is not spent by June, it goes back to HUD.
The 2005 YMHA grant, which should have been in effect this month, is being held back until June, when the YMHA situation will be reviewed.
In addition to Westlake, YMHA has these low-income properties:
UAmedia Plaza, 131 W. Boardman St.
UBrier Hill Annex, 263 Dupont St.
UVictory Estates, 690 Magnolia Ave.
UGutknecht Tower, 110 E. Wood St.
URockford Village, 1402 Dogwood Lane.
UNorton Manor, 1400 Springdale Ave.
ULowellville Park Apartments, 810 Wood St., Lowellville.
UStruthers Manor, 585 Poland Ave., Struthers.
UVasu Manor, 137 Roosevelt Drive, Campbell.
UMichael J. Kirwan Homes, 101 Jackson St., Campbell.