Youngstown council OKs bill aimed at people blocking downtown sidewalks, public places


By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

City council rejected legislation that would have made it illegal for people to loiter downtown and permit police officers to question those standing about what they’re doing.

Instead, council approved an ordinance Wednesday prohibiting people from blocking sidewalks, streets and public places.

Council members said they were uncomfortable with the original language proposed by Mayor John A. McNally.

Despite the changes – which also included making the law citywide rather than specific to downtown – McNally said he was pleased that council approved the ordinance. The proposal came after downtown business owners complained about large groups of people blocking the entrances to their stores and restaurants, saying some are selling drugs, drinking alcoholic beverages in public and committing other criminal offenses.

“Over the past two months, we’ve stepped up enforcement downtown, and [business owners] are happy,” McNally said. “I’m glad to have something on the books.”

The increased enforcement, the mayor said, includes having officers charge violators of open-container and drug-possession laws.

“We’re looking to stop some of this behavior downtown,” McNally said.

Council also authorized the board of control to seek proposals for paving and waterline improvements to Meridian Road between Mahoning Avenue and Interstate 680.

The estimated cost is $3.7 million with the city paying $1.8 million, Mahoning County paying $400,000 and the rest coming from state grants.

The project is supposed to start this fall and not be done until next summer, said Charles Shasho, deputy director of public works.

Council voted Wednesday to have the board of control seek proposals to demolish bleachers at six parks. The total cost is estimated at $300,000. McNally said it was unlikely the work would be done this year, but he wants to find out the cost of each of the six demolition projects before making a final decision.

Council also approved four charter amendments Wednesday to the Nov. 8 ballot.

Three of them eliminate outdated language in the charter that isn’t being followed. The other, if passed, would require city council to redistrict the seven wards after a U.S. Census shows at least a 10 percent difference between the least- and most-populous wards within 180 days of the document’s release.

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