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Mayor’s talking to Wal-Mart important on several levels

Published: Thu, August 28, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

A month ago, we applauded Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams’ decision not to make the creation of a Joint Economic Development District in Liberty Township a deal breaker with regard to Wal-Mart’s proposed superstore in the former Liberty Plaza on Belmont Avenue. The 153,863-square-foot building needs water, and Youngstown is the only viable supplier.

Williams had wanted township trustees to agree to the creation of a JEDD that would take in the Wal-Mart site, but the trustees balked. Just when it seemed that the impasse would derail the project, the mayor withdrew his demand. He said he did not want to do anything to jeopardize the $10 million-plus project.

But earlier this month, Youngstown water was again at the center of a dispute involving Wal-Mart, and once again it appeared that the project was in danger of being shelved.

At issue is the city’s requirement, contained in a water-use agreement, that the worldwide discount chain guarantee 25 percent of the jobs in the Liberty store for Youngstown residents. The mayor rightly argues that he is simply following a 20-year precedent, and that Wal-Mart did provide such a guarantee when it was building its store in Austintown.

The mayor at the time was Patrick J. Ungaro, now the administrator of Liberty Township. Ungaro acknowledges that such a requirement was in place, but insists that he used a “best effort” standard.

Regardless, Wal-Mart made it known to the Williams administration that it was unwilling to agree to a job set aside, but officials pointed out that a significant number of the chain’s employees throughout the region are from Youngstown.

Fever pitch

Just as the battle of words reached a fever pitch and Wal-Mart indicated to Liberty trustees that it was considering putting the project on hold, the mayor made contact with company officials and set up a meeting with them.

He did make it clear, however, that he has no intention of including Ungaro or the township trustees in the discussions.

That is his prerogative as the leader of the city which owns the water. But we would caution him about turning this incident into all-out war.

From a purely economic development standpoint, the Valley can ill afford a national reputation for being less than business friendly. The competition for jobs, even those that pay minimum wage, is intense.

The downturn in the national economy, coupled with the weakening of America’s manufacturing prowess due to bad policy decisions made in Washington, has forced regions like ours to take what they can get.

The fight over water is not good for the Mahoning Valley’s reputation.

In addition, Youngstown, which is facing major financial difficulties, needs suburban water customers. To think otherwise is to be blind to the reality that is the city.

With its population in decline and its commercial customer base stagnant, at best, the money Youngstown receives from all of Austintown and portions of Boardman and Liberty is crucial to the fiscal well-being of the water department.

Indeed, there is an opportunity to increase the number of suburban customers, commercial and residential, if Mayor Williams and his political colleagues in Austintown, Boardman and Liberty can come to a meeting of the minds.

A war over water helps no one. Cooler heads must prevail.


1BobbyLee(5 comments)posted 6 years ago

Absolutely well said ..this may be one of the clearest editorials I've ever read in 25 years of reading the Vindy
further elaboration is not needed here..commerce, of any sort, IS needed here...the deal needs to conclude with a
new store, spawning new commerce and activity for the benefit of all .

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2JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 6 years ago

Very good commentary and right on point.

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3George412(161 comments)posted 6 years ago

Interestingly, this editorial leaves out what happened before the "war of words" reached a "fever pitch." Anyone else notice the gap? How, exactly, did WalMart "make it known to the Williams administration?"

When Mayor Williams spoke before a group of citizens at the UU church on Monday night, he said that Administrator Ungaro approached the media with WalMart's concerns and that he [Williams] then found out from the media. Might this handling of the matter have contributed to the "fever pitch" and to Youngstown's negative reputation?

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4NachoCheese(163 comments)posted 6 years ago

"owns the water" ??? WTF? This is the whole problem with this petty little debate - Jay THINKS he "OWNS" the water. While the nameless editorial writer makes some good points, he/she needs to get a clear picture of who "OWNS" the water. Y'town may PROCESS the water through a group that they are a PART of (MVSD of old - aka Meander Water?) but no way does Jay "OWN" the water. Jay's latest stunts are simply ways to insert himself in the middle of something that really is of little concern to him. Wal Mart is wanting to come to LIBERTY in TRUMBULL COUNTY - the only way this ties to Jay is does he want to sell water or not and maybe some of his residents will also benefit from JOBS - something that the whole area could use (if his royal hind-end Jay will allow it to happen).

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5metz87(884 comments)posted 6 years ago

it aint his county or his busniess wha is going on there. Let Wal-Mart do what they have to do and support it not fight it.

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6MPur1021240(15 comments)posted 6 years ago

Forget about Wal-Mart.
What Mayor Jay Williams is doing is blackmailing surrounding townships using water as his weapon of choice. Liberty already agreed to a JEDD with the city on all UNDEVELOPED land within the township or so I have heard, perhaps wrongly.
This is going against the agreement that has been in place for Youngstown to provide water to the Township for 50 years. The issue isn't about running pipe lines. Those are in place and have been for years!
Perhaps what we need to do over here is have a JEDD between Liberty, Girard, Niles etc. and replace the damn at Girard Lake making it our water supply and tell JEDD-EYE JAY jump in his lake!

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7Mimi2BC(147 comments)posted 6 years ago

I'm not real clear on the basics here... so could somebody help me out? Is Y-town the only place we can buy our water from?

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8stoochie15(6 comments)posted 6 years ago

the water does belong to the city of youngstown, and walmart signed the contract when ugaro was mayor of youngstown when walmart went to austintown, so what makes liberty township any better????????????? now ugaro is singing a differnt tune now that he is no longer mayor for youngstown, mayor jay williams just got into office and is doing the best that he can dealing with this tired old situation im tired of paying taxes for the townships , now learn your history and government before you start talking

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9PEACE2U(115 comments)posted 6 years ago

Either ya want it or not!! Back-off Mayor Williams!!

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10dmets(575 comments)posted 6 years ago

How do you expect us to back off Jay when he has his hands in so many things? Especially things that all seem to make people mad or look bad for Youngstown? Come on he is not doing a very good job at leading Youngstown! I know his budget is not good. So look at your own people and see what jobs can be cut! Do not look to blackmail surrounding area over water they already pay 40% premium tax on already. He is try to grab on to something that just is not there.

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11BobbyLee(5 comments)posted 6 years ago

Wasn't Mayor Jay to meet with the Wal Mart reps last week?
Anyone know if that happenned or is the negotiation still

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