DOWNTOWN Local merchants skip sanitation safety meeting

Garbage disposal is an increasing concern in the downtown area.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A meeting intended to discuss ways to make Youngstown's downtown area appear inviting missed its intended audience Wednesday.
But city officials used what was supposed to be an educational meeting for downtown merchants as an open forum to discuss ways of handling issues such as garbage disposal, hosting outdoor events and parking.
First Ward Councilman Artis Gilliam had called the meeting to discuss sanitation and safety with city officials, merchants and food service providers, but no merchants showed up.
Sidewalks and parking
Claire Maluso, Federal Plaza director, said that trucks and cars cannot park on the sidewalks downtown, stressing that this will be an "educational process" for some.
"Underneath these sidewalks there are electrical wires. They weren't designed to hold heavy things," Maluso said. "We can't have delivery trucks on the sidewalks. It's not so much the violation, but they will end up in the basement of some of these buildings."
Capt. Ken Centorame of the Youngstown Police Dept. suggested restricting the hours when trucks can deliver to local businesses to cut down on traffic, adding that citizens should be catered to.
Although Gilliam said this was a "very good idea," Health Commissioner Neil Altman said restricting hours poses a problem if a business runs out of a product it needs.
Garbage cleanup
City officials discussed the importance of maintenance in front of businesses, as well as trash collection and using trash bins.
"Merchants should have pride in their business," Maluso said, adding that windows should be sparkling.
For the past 20 years employees of the Street Department have taken care of the Federal Plaza area, said Joe Mastropietro, street department director.
Mastropietro said some employees pick up trash from public trash cans that local businesses use as their own at least twice a day, adding that often the trash cans would overflow and trash would be set on the ground.
Gillam suggested that these businesses be fined.
"No ifs ands or buts about it. If we have to make an ordinance to do that, we will do that," Gilliam said.
Altman asked if the businesses would be informed that no one would pick up their trash any more.
"Over the last 20 years the trash was magically picked up by the street department. A little sugar would be easier at first to alert them that there won't be any sugar anymore. There will be a little vinegar," Altman said. "We don't want to see any more businesses leave the city. We want to attract them."
Altman added that businesses should use trash bins in the back of the building to dispose of garbage.
Event permits
Maluso said it is easier for merchants to come to her office when they need a permit to host an event. She said she could then direct the person to the proper place to go, depending on the type of event and the type of permit needed.
This would require the person only to get a list of signatures.
Altman said this is not sufficient, and he would like for the person to meet with a sanitation employee for 15 or 20 minutes before get anything signed.
While it seems like there is a lot of work to do to continue to beautify downtown, Mayor George McKelvey said he was optimistic.
"Everywhere I go people come up to me and talk about how impressed they are with downtown," McKelvey said. "Even the naysayers are overwhelmed by positive energy. It's infectious. Success breeds success."

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