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Youngstown council to vote on hiring firm for Covelli amphitheater



Published: Tue, December 17, 2013 @ 12:07 a.m.

By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

City council will vote Wednesday on having the board of control spend about $90,000 to hire a firm for design and engineering work on a proposed amphitheater at the Covelli Centre.

The $90,000 sought in the legislation is an estimate, said Mayor Charles Sammarone, who is sponsoring the ordinance.

“It could be less; it could be more,” he said.

If approved by council, the legislation authorizes the board of control to hire a consultant to design the outdoor facility and provide a cost estimate for the project.

Building an amphitheater would cost between $1 million and $1.7 million, city Finance Director David Bozanich said last week. The final estimate would be determined after the design and engineering work is done, he said.

Hiring a consultant would most likely be up to Mayor-elect John McNally IV, who takes office Jan. 1.

McNally supports an amphitheater, but wants the city to focus on paying down the debt on the center.

The city borrowed $11.9 million in 2005 to pay its portion of constructing the $45 million center. The city has paid less than $900,000 toward the principal.

The amphitheater is needed to increase business at the indoor arena during the summer months, the slowest time of the year for the facility, Sammarone said.

If built, the amphitheater would be used about 25 times during the summer months. The center has about 100 events annually.

Also Wednesday, council will vote on paying the $50,000 deductible it has to its liability insurance provider, HCC Public Risk Claim Service, for a dismissed federal lawsuit filed by a former municipal court employee.

U.S. District Court Judge Benita Pearson dismissed the case in October filed in 2010 by Sheila Lawson, who was fired as Youngstown Municipal Court administrator in March 2009, four months after she was hired.

Lawson’s failed $2.2 million lawsuit contended the city fired her for racial discrimination and retaliation.

Judge Pearson dismissed the case after Lawson failed to appear for depositions in the case.

Lawson, a former four-year FBI agent, acted as her own attorney.


Comments

1Southside_Res(172 comments)posted 9 months ago

How city council can get its checkbook out for $90,000 on just consulting fees when it isn't their money!!! It's taxpayers' money going toward a private enterprise/a profit making venture. When will these dodos on council and in the mayor's office ever get it through their thick skulls?! One of the things Skolnick keeps harping on, and you really should listen to this, one of the things he keeps harping on is how little the city has reduced its debt on the Covelli Centre. In almost ten years, it has barely paid down ten percent of its loan. At that rate, the city is taking eighty or more years to pay off this debt. Who cares if the interest rate is just over 1% ? It still amounts to millions of dollars in interest. And, who in his right mind thinks the Covelli Centre is going to be here seventy years from now?!

City council, it's president, the mayor, and the finance director seemed to have forgotten what the basic function of a municipality should be. It is to provide quality basic municipal services, not squander away $90,000 worth of taxpayer funds! The Board of Control should be called, and rightly so, the three stooges. This latest act is nothing more than throwing the proverbial pearls before swine story all over again. How much more epically moronic can this get?! When the city can get adept at providing quality municipal services to her own residents, then let's talk about what other things we can do for the city and this region. Hell, the city can't even plow its streets timely.

And, why doesn't the city lean on business leaders to start picking up the tab for all of this crap? What about leaning on a regional taxing authority? Why do Youngstown residents have to, time and time again, keep picking up the tab for a project that impacts the region, not just the city of Youngstown?! Was there even a hint of brainstorming here by city council? Without much forethought, I can come up with at least one good suggestion.

Here it is: if you're really insistent on spending taxpayer money, why don't you farm the project out to three YSU graduate students under the guidance of the STEM advisory committee? Ask for three different designs and pay the grad students intern fees for a semester's worth of work. Use one of the consulting firms on the STEM advisory committee to volunteer to supervise the grad students or pay a nominal supervision fee. The money spent on grad student and supervision fees would be better spent than just farming it straight down the gutter to a consulting firm that is more than likely located outside the city. Honestly, I just don't get the dearth of imagination in the minds of city leaders!

God, please help us from these lunatics!!!!!!

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2ytowncrazy(34 comments)posted 9 months ago

"Here it is: if you're really insistent on spending taxpayer money, why don't you farm the project out to three YSU graduate students under the guidance of the STEM advisory committee? Ask for three different designs and pay the grad students intern fees for a semester's worth of work. Use one of the consulting firms on the STEM advisory committee to volunteer to supervise the grad students or pay a nominal supervision fee. The money spent on grad student and supervision fees would be better spent than just farming it straight down the gutter to a consulting firm that is more than likely located outside the city. Honestly, I just don't get the dearth of imagination in the minds of city leaders! "

^^^ This is a fabulous idea for so many reasons.

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3walter_sobchak(1910 comments)posted 9 months ago

This ISN'T a fabulous idea for one big reason. YSU does not have an architectural school that would be able to handle such a project. While they do have civil, mechanical and electrical engineering students, architects are most certainly needed to make the project fit in the space provided, both physically and aesthetically. This is the same reason that some homeowners contract with a builder to do a home addition and it sticks out like a sore thumb. Bit, if you spend a couple of bucks and get proper advice, it can fit in and function well.

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4Southside_Res(172 comments)posted 9 months ago

Another naysayer and yet another reason why Youngstown can never seem to pull itself from the morass.

@walter... :

The YSU STEM advisory committee does have consultants on its committee who can supervise the very work that needs to be done. The committee and YSU faculty list is replete with a number of Professional Engineers who work or have worked in architectural firms. A number of architectural and consulting firms hire our YSU graduate civil and mechanical engineers to do exactly what Sammarone and his whacked out council are proposing.

But, Walt, you sort of missed the boat. My whole diatribe was about trying to find viable solutions before the city spends taxpayer funds on projects taxpayers shouldn't be funding. Three graduate students from YSU from cross disciplines are fully capable of coming up with three different mechanical drawings of a proposed Amphitheater in Youngstown. For goodness sakes, MS Consultants is on the STEM advisory committee and has an office in Youngstown who employ architects. Why wouldn't they want to volunteer to supervise three grad students?

Still sounds like a good idea. At least, it's better than any solution you came up with. Instead of being a naysayer, why don't you make a recommendation that doesn't use taxpayer funds in such a glaringly inefficient way?

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5AndJusticeForAll(16 comments)posted 9 months ago

I'm gonna pick on Walter a little bit here because his attitude is so reminiscent of those attitudes held by council members, a council president, and our nearly octogenarian mayor (You might as well throw the Finance Director in there, too.), who repeatedly refuse to use the resources of Youngstown State University. And, in those infrequent times when city leaders did ask YSU for help, they just flat out reject recommendations and well thought out, educated sage advice. They sit on their hands because they feel such recommendations or advice interfere with their perceived powers of influence on council, in the city, or in the mayor's office. The city's history is full of such anecdotal evidence.

Further, Walter, it is just an outdoor amphitheater. As someone unschooled in such designs, even I wouldn't consider making some haphazard addition to the Covelli Centre. I do know, though, that it needs to be built on our old brown fields, and for that you better have some kind of engineer, not an architect, assessing what can be built there.

In the end, I'm not certain why involving the community, involving graduate talent from YSU, and involving the mentoring leadership of a local consulting firm through STEM wouldn't be a good idea. In the least and by my calculation, it saves Youngstown taxpayers $70,000. I'm fairly certain most talented graduate students would be thankful for a $5,000 internship award in exchange for a dynamite project.

Honestly, what is wrong with people sometimes?!

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6walter_sobchak(1910 comments)posted 9 months ago

I'm sure that MS already has some interns on their staff from YSU. But, the fact that this is an outdoor amphitheater is exactly why architects and landscape architects are needed for such a project. The big stumbling block may well be the contaminated soil that is south of the Covelli Center where the old still mill was situated. As I recall, when the South Ave. bridge was demolished and rebuilt, the construction workers needed to wear containment suits during excavation. An amphitheater would likely have a terraced layout which would preclude significant excavation due to contamination or the presence of large foundations from the old industrial machines and buildings. Thus, a fill-type structure could work for elevation changes. This will not be a simple engineering project and it would be best to get proper professional help. But, hey, maybe an opinion from a PE with a MSCE from YSU doesn't know what he is talking about.

The city wold be wise to let the design and engineering contract to MS Consultants since they have done numerous projects in this immediate area and they know what they are getting into.

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7Southside_Res(172 comments)posted 9 months ago

@walter_sobchak:

I'm gonna take a cue from Saturday Night Live and say, "Noooooooooo, I'm pretty sure YSU has professors, adjuncts, and advisory members who have that P.E. after their name for a good reason and are well qualified and knowledgeable enough to do this." YSU has sufficiently aspiring engineers who would also be able to complete the task under such guidance. But, far be it from me to make a suggestion. I still have yet to hear yours that doesn't include using taxpayer funds.

You do bring up a curious point about MS Consultants, though. I'm sitting here looking at the campaign financial activity reports for McNally and Sammarone. I gotta ask. Anyone floating around in these reports that might be connected to MS Consultants? I see that an engineering PAC contributed $7,500 to McNally's campaign. Anyone from that PAC connected to MS Consultants? Is MS Consultants getting this $90,000 contract that Sammarone says might be less, but might be more. Has anyone from MS Consultants contributed in the past to any of our council members' war chests?

Sometimes, you just have to wonder about what the paper doesn't think about and provide when they publish an article. But, now that you say it, hmmmmm.

I wonder.

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8southsidedave(4780 comments)posted 9 months ago

I quote from the article..."If built, the amphitheater would be used about 25 times during the summer months"....why not build something that will be utilized year-round? YTown devises ways to spend money needlessly.

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9city_resident(513 comments)posted 9 months ago

Regarding the engineer vs. architect debate: The current layout of Central Square was designed by engineers. That's reason enough--for me at least--to involve an architect in the design of a new amphitheater.

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