Youngstown council OKs hiring of planning firm

By David Skolnick


City council took a major step toward Youngstown hiring a firm to provide planning services — something that’s been virtually nonexistent during the past four years.

Council approved legislation Wednesday permitting the board of control to advertise for and enter into a contract with the “best-qualified consultant for planning services.”

There was some confusion on the legislation’s language that was cleared up before council’s 7-0 vote.

Initially, the language stated the work would be for “a downtown and major corridor plan,” which wouldn’t include neighborhoods.

That line was removed, allowing planning to be citywide.

Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th, chairwoman of the finance committee, said the initial language was a minor misunderstanding among some members of council and the administration.

Also, council amended the ordinance before the vote on the cost of the agreement.

The legislation language was “will not exceed $100,000.”

It was changed to “at an estimated cost of $100,000.”

Some council members were concerned that it could cost more than $100,000 to hire a firm to handle the planning work and didn’t want the city to be restricted on the expense.

Before the board of control hires a firm for planning, it will discuss the situation with council members, said city Finance Director David Bozanich, who serves on the board with Mayor Charles Sammarone and Law Director Anthony Farris.

Also, if the planning firm does work for the water and wastewater departments, money from those two could be used to pay a portion of the cost, Bozanich said.

The rest would come from the city’s general fund.

The city will move “as quickly as possible” to hire a firm, Sammarone said.

The city has been without a planner since March 2009 when Anthony Kobak left after nine years on the job.

That work has been largely ignored with those working in the zoning department and Community Development Agency doing what they can to fill the void.

The city has neglected planning for years, Tarpley said, which could impact a possible relocation of Cardinal Mooney High School from the city’s South Side.

“It wouldn’t be an issue if we had addressed the areas around the campus,” she said.

“I think it would have been easier for them to say, ‘It’s beautiful around here, and Youngstown wants us, and we’re growing’” here.

No decision has been made on Mooney’s relocation, but a study, released Tuesday, shows the Catholic population has shifted from the city to the suburbs.

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