By David Skolnick
The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. will provide planning services for the city.
The city’s board of control voted Thursday to hire YNDC, which has Youngstown State University’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies as a partner.
City council in May authorized spending up to $200,000 for planning services with a focus on neighborhoods, downtown and the main corridors. Also, the firm hired is to create a citywide development plan.
The YNDC/YSU proposal to develop a citywide plan would be a 15-month process.
The proposal also estimated the cost of the work at $145,000. City Finance Director David Bozanich, the board of control’s secretary, said that figure could increase depending on the services needed, but wouldn’t exceed $200,000 annually.
The request to hire YNDC was a late item added to the board of control’s agenda.
The timing came as a surprise to YNDC officials.
Presley Gillespie, the agency’s executive director, declined to comment on the selection because YNDC hasn’t “been formally notified by the city we have the contract.”
Of the four agencies seeking to handle planning services, a committee of administration officials met with YNDC and City Architecture of Cleveland.
Two firms not interviewed by the committee were CZB LLC of Alexandria, Va., and APD Urban Planning & Management LLC of Jacksonville, Fla.
The committee consisted of Bozanich; DeMaine Kitchen, the mayor’s chief of staff/secretary; Bill D’Avignon, the city’s Community Development Agency director; and Scott Smith, the federal Strong Cities, Strong Community’s Community Solutions Team member, based in Youngstown.
In a letter to Mayor Charles Sammarone on behalf of the committee, Bozanich wrote that YNDC was a better selection because it has:
Local knowledge of the city’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities that others don’t have.
Very low administrative and travel expenses.
The best understanding of the city’s planning requirements.
Local experience and knowledge of existing stakeholders and the political leadership so it won’t have a learning curve.
Demonstrated planning experience in several local efforts.
Flexibility to add services the city may want.
“YNDC was not only the cheapest, but they have local experience and expertise,” said Sammarone, board of control chairman.
YNDC is a neighborhood-development organization, while the Center for Urban and Regional Studies provides various planning services, including being a partner in the Youngstown 2010 plan and is finishing a study on the use of properties owned by the city’s parks and recreation department.
In its proposal to the city, YNDC/YSU said the planning services would be run by Ian Beniston, YNDC’s project manager, with a staff of three to four planners, a graphic designer, two interns, and John Bralich, YSU’s Center for Urban Studies’ research associate/senior GIS [geographic information system] manager and data service manager.
The city has talked for years about hiring a planner.
The city has been without a planner since March 2009 when Anthony Kobak left after nine years on the job.
It’s more efficient for the city to hire a firm to handle planning services than to create an in-house department, Sammarone has said.