Council in Youngstown rejects cash deal

On the side

The real story: A picture of then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt campaigning in a car during the 1940 campaign in Youngstown is almost iconic to Mahoning County Democrats. The picture is even on the county party’s website. Here’s a link:

The caption on the party’s website says that Fred Shutrump, then the county Democratic chairman, had the city’s “Republican mayor,” seated next to FDR, airbrushed out of the picture.

John Jovich of York, Pa., a presidential historian who was born and raised in Youngstown, tells a different story about the visit.

Jovich said Walter Mitchell was party chairman during FDR’s Oct. 11, 1940, visit. Vindicator records show Mitchell replaced Shutrump as chairman more than four months earlier.

Also, Jovich points out that the mayor at the time was a Democrat, William B. Spagnola, who is in the car with the president and then-U.S. Rep. Mike Kirwan.

Jovich contends no one was airbrushed out of that picture. Strangely, a different Vindicator picture of FDR on that day in the same car shows that someone sitting between FDR and Kirwan was airbrushed from the picture. A note on the back of the print reads: “Take out man next to FDR.”

Obviously the missing man wasn’t a Republican mayor. But who was that person?

Like many other communities, Youngstown is facing serious financial challenges.

If all goes according to plan, and it rarely does, the city will end the year with a $16,500 surplus in its general fund.

So when the city administration works out a deal to receive 45 acres of land at a rundown industrial park on the East Side for free with a company ready to move there, as well as $280,000 in cash, you would think all city leaders would jump at the opportunity.

After all, the proposal would provide a little cushion for the city’s finances.

V&M Star request

Also, the request to relocate Metalico, a scrap-metal supplier to V&M Star, to the Ross Industrial Park came from V&M officials. Yes, that same company investing $650 million into the largest industrial project in Youngstown since the glory days of the steel mills.

Because of that expansion, V&M needs the land off of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard currently used by Metalico.

The plan was to relocate Metalico to Ross on Albert Street.

For Metalico to move to Ross, the zoning would have to be changed from light industrial to heavy industrial.

The Cafaro Co. sold the property to TPOH1 LLC, a Lisbon company that only wants to salvage the scrap from the location.

As part of the sale, Cafaro had an option to buy back the land after TPOH1 finishes its work.

The plan was for V&M to pay $540,000 to Youngstown to purchase about 45 acres for Metalico. Also, the Cafaro Co. was going to give $280,000 to the city.

But that deal isn’t going to happen.

Whether it’s a right or a wrong decision, it was essentially made by one person: Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st.

Gillam, who has the industrial park in her ward, said she spoke to her constituents and couldn’t find one who favored having Metalico and its scrapyard at the Albert Street location.

At a meeting called and attended by Joel Mastervich, V&M’s president and chief operating officer, Gillam complained about Metalico not enclosing the scrapyard. After that, Metalico decided not to move.

This isn’t exactly a pristine location.

The place is such a mess that it was purchased by a company that wants to tear it down and sell the scrap metal. TPHO1 has no other interest in the land.

Also, there’s a noisy concrete plant a short distance from this location.

And that $280,000 is gone, never to return.

‘Not good money’

“All money coming in is not good money,” Gillam said. “The city needs the money right now, but the citizens of the East Side would be stuck with something for a long time. The money wasn’t worth it. A short-term fix isn’t worth a long-term problem.”

With the escalation in recent months of tension and public disagreements between members of the administration and city council over budget decisions, this isn’t helping the matter.

Mayor Jay Williams was compelled Wednesday to say, “Council takes this dictatorial approach that this is what we want. You guys [in the administration] figure it out. If you don’t figure it out then there will be hell to pay for it.”

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