By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN — Officials with the Western Reserve Transit Authority defend the $2.2 million they are receiving from the federal stimulus package to renovate and expand administration offices as a job-creation project.
“A sizable number of people will be employed” for the construction project, said Don Meszaros, WRTA’s director of maintenance. “It will provide people seven to eight additional months of employment. It will hopefully employ people from” the area.
The $2.2 million was among a $3.51 million allocation WRTA is to receive from the stimulus package’s transportation funding program.
The $787 billion federal stimulus package is designed to create and retain jobs.
Some people, including a number of posters on Vindy.com, have reacted negatively to Thursday’s announcement about the $2.2 million funding, questioning how the project creates or retains jobs.
James Ferraro, WRTA’s executive director, said the 24-year-old office on the lower portion of Mahoning Avenue needs improvements and to be expanded.
“People will be put to work,” he said with jobs needed for general contractors, plumbing, electric, fire and security, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning work.
WRTA submitted this project, along with others, to the governor’s office, which then forwarded all requests for funding it received to the federal government. The Obama administration made the decision to fund some projects and not others.
The WRTA administration building has needed the expansion project — putting 1,500 additional square feet on the office — for a number of years, Meszaros said.
The agency moved from a city agency to a county one because of the passage of 0.25 percent sales tax in November.
WRTA has restored evening and Saturday bus service and will increase its routes to other parts of the county shortly.
About 20 people, mostly drivers, will be hired soon, Ferraro said. The agency currently employs 68, he said.
“This will help create jobs and put more people to work,” Ferraro said.
Without the stimulus money, the expansion wouldn’t be possible, he said. It’s been in the planning stages since 2005.
“It’s about work and employment and pumping up the economy,” Ferraro said.
The project will move fast, Meszaros said.
Contractors will be named by the WRTA board on May 29.
Work will begin shortly after and take about seven to eight months to complete, Meszaros said.
During the construction, WRTA administrative employees will work out of a temporary double-wide trailer near the office, he said.
The agency also received $230,435 for maintenance costs.
That will allow WRTA to save operating expenses that would go to maintenance and use it for other purposes, Ferraro said.
The agency also will receive $1.08 million to buy 12 smaller buses — 12-passenger 24 feet long — and five minivans to expand service.