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Youngstown council postpones vote to close building unit

Published: Thu, December 20, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick

By David Skolnick



At the request of the mayor, city council postponed legislation to close its building department and give that work to Mahoning County.

Mayor Charles Sammarone said Wednesday that consolidation is still an option.

But he also suggested the city look at increasing staff for that department from one to three or four, stop giving building-permit waivers to companies, and nearly double its permit fees to the amounts charged by the county.

Having a fully staffed city building department would cost about $450,000 to $500,000 annually, Sammarone said.

But more than that could be raised with the changes, he said. The city collects about $215,000 in building- permit fees and gives about $150,000 in waivers yearly, Sammarone said.

Nearly doubling those fees and no longer giving waivers — except to nonprofits — would not only pay to operate the department, but make money for the city, he said.

Council agreed to not vote Wednesday on the proposal. It will be on the agenda of its next meeting, Jan. 2.

The suggestion was a reversal for Sammarone, who sponsored the legislation to consolidate and told The Vindicator on Monday that he supported the move for efficiency and savings.

“These issues surfaced in the last couple of days,” he said. “As soon as we get exact numbers, we’ll make a decision. If we can do everything right and keep it in-house” that would be a good plan.

Sammarone had said Monday the government-consolidation effort could take effect by next month.

The mayor praises the county’s building department for doing a great job with the city’s housing inspections, which it took over in March.

This was to be the second part of that consolidation. Because of the city moving in that direction, the county in June didn’t increase from $60 to $100 for each inspection in Youngstown that is charged to the city as was planned.

If the county took over permitting in the city, it would no longer charge an inspection fee to Youngstown.

The mayor’s statements and council’s decision not to vote took county commissioners by surprise — learning about it when a reporter called after the meeting.

The commissioners will still vote today on the proposed consolidation, said Commissioner John McNally IV, who didn’t seek re-election this year to run for Youngstown mayor in 2013.

“We’ve been working with this city for months” on this, McNally said. “City council has the right to go back and do their due diligence. That’s their prerogative.”

But McNally said if the city decides not to consolidate, county commissioners may consider increasing the building inspection fee to $100 or no longer do inspections for the city.

“I’m not sure why the city did it this way,” McNally said. “We would have appreciated a heads-up.”

Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti, a former city councilwoman, said, “Yes, they can do it on their own, but in the long run, having the county do it would save the city all that expense. Once they look at the costs and the increases needed, they’ll realize going with the county is the best option. We need to start working together.”

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