Youngstown city officials, merchants discuss issues

Business owners support the formation of a downtown merchants group.
YOUNGSTOWN -- City officials reached their intended audience with Thursday afternoon's meeting with downtown merchants.
About 25 merchants were present to discuss parking, sanitation and safety issues. At a morning meeting June 22, only one merchant had attended and stayed for only a few minutes.
Parking concerns
Claire Maluso, Federal Plaza director, addressed her concerns about parking on sidewalks downtown.
Maluso said trucks and vans cannot park on the sidewalks because of the basements, cellars and cables underneath them.
Parking on the sidewalks is a "no-no," Maluso said. "Anyone doing that will be ticketed and towed away."
Jim Villani, the managing editor of Pig Iron Press, 26 N. Phelps St., said he has to park on the sidewalk in front of his business because the 20 minute loading and unloading zone, which can fit about three to four cars, is full.
"Whenever the zone is available, I won't have to pull onto the sidewalk to unload," Villani said.
Carmen Conglose, the city's deputy director of public works, said he would check into the issue.
Sanitation and safety
Maluso said it is important for merchants to take pride in their businesses by keeping the outside area clean. "Especially the windows. When you walk down the street and you see windows shining and you can see in the business, it's inviting," Maluso said.
Merchants nodded their heads in agreement after Maluso asked if they agreed.
However, they expressed concerns about trash problems and after-hours vandalism downtown.
Jeff Kurz, co-owner of Imbibe, a martini bar at 124 W. Federal St., said vagrants break into boarded-up buildings and smash alcohol bottles before leaving.
Kurz said he and his partners have put new boards on an abandoned building by their business, but people took them down.
In addition, John Thompson of Tomasino's Pizza, 103 W. Federal St., said he witnessed someone dump a large amount of trash into a receptacle downtown.
"This guy rolls up and tosses his trash on Federal Street," Thompson said, adding that trash often overflows from the trash cans downtown.
Councilman Artis Gillam Sr., D-1st, said if anyone sees someone just dumping their trash, to get the license plate number and call him.
Maluso wanted to make it clear that the issue of trash containers people use and those businesses use is a separate concern.
Many business have problems with fitting trash bins in the alleys by their businesses.
Thompson suggested that some businesses could use a couple of 90-gallon receptacles because they could fit in the limited alley space.
Some merchants also agreed to sign up for a recycling program that would reduce the amount of trash that would need to go in receptacles outside.
The city would pick up the recyclables from the businesses.
Merchants association
Most merchants raised their hands after Maluso asked who would be willing to participate in a downtown merchants association.
Maluso said the association would address any problems that merchants had. It would also give them a chance to work out problems together in regular meetings.

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