Council agrees to borrow $805,000 for V&M project

By David Skolnick

The property is needed to relocate railroad lines to the company’s proposed project site.

YOUNGSTOWN — City council agreed to borrow $805,000 to purchase a 62-acre railroad property needed for V&M Star Steel’s proposed expansion project.

V&M wanted Genesee & Wyoming Railroad to give the property to the company for no cost, but that didn’t happen, said city Finance Director David Bozanich.

Discussions between V&M and the railroad company ended late last week, he said.

At the request of V&M, the city is buying the land with V&M agreeing to reimburse the cost by June, Bozanich said. Council voted Wednesday to borrow the money to buy the land.

The city is buying the property, rather than V&M, because Youngstown can use federal stimulus money to make improvements to the site, Bozanich said.

The city received $17.7 million earlier this year to improve land needed by V&M for a proposed $970 million expansion project.

The property is needed to relocate railroad lines to V&M’s proposed project site.

The city purchased close to 200 acres for V&M earlier this year for $5 million. The company will reimburse the city for that amount in June, Bozanich said.

V&M officials are considering an expansion near its current plant on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Youngstown, near the city of Girard line.

A decision by the company is expected early next year.

A new facility would employ about 400 workers in addition to V&M’s current mill that employs 450.

Also Wednesday, council authorized two consulting contracts and opted not to approve a third. Council previously had refused to vote on the three without further information.

Council approved a $39,000 contract to hire Steve Novotny as a consultant to develop a housing- deconstruction program.

Council agreed to hire Maureen O’Neill to develop and launch a rental-property-registration program. She’ll be paid $40,050.

But council rejected the hiring of Robert Weily for a $30,000 contract to identify vacant properties that have been foreclosed that the city could buy, rehabilitate and sell.

Councilman DeMaine Kitchen, D-2nd, said a majority of council members weren’t comfortable hiring Weily, saying the work and Weily were “not the best fit.” He and other council members declined to give specifics.

Bill D’Avignon, the city’s community development agency who recommended Weily be hired, said Weily was the best candidate for the job.

D’Avignon said some council members called him and said they had “an issue” with Weily, but “no one identified anything in particular.”

Council also refused to approve an economic-incentive package for a company planning to invest $1.7 million to build an industrial wastewater treatment facility at the Ohio Works Business Park, near Division Street.

Councilwoman Carol Rimedio-Righetti, D-4th, asked that officials with the company, North Star Disposal Services, meet with council to assure its members the proposed business wouldn’t cause odor problems for those living nearby.

Also, council authorized the city’s board of control to pay $171,024.91 in back pay and other benefits to firefighter Joseph P. Wrenn, improperly fired three years ago.

The city fired Wrenn for violating the city’s residency requirement. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in June that state law overturning residency requirements was constitutional.

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