Niles meeting to discuss survey draws mostly complaints
By Jordan Cohen
It was supposed to have been a public meeting at the Niles Wellness Center to discuss results from a recent community survey of issues of importance to city residents and businesses.
Instead, it turned into a barrage of complaints that lasted some 80 minutes before Service Director Ed Stredney, who had been trying to run the meeting, finally got it on track.
“I know we got off topic a little bit,” Stredney conceded.
The survey conducted last December by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber found that revitalizing the business district and eradicating blight were among the major concerns of those who responded.
However, as soon the meeting began, so did the complaints, with hardly any residents asking about the survey.
The complaints ranged from potholes to decrepit buildings to lack of response from department heads.
Stredney seemed unable to get the 25 residents who attended to focus on the survey.
“I hate what the city has become,” said Brenda Claypool, who said she has been unable to sell her house because of declining property values.
“Where is maintenance?” asked Wanda Burns, a former Niles resident who owns property in the city. Burns wondered why the city is having so many roofing problems at buildings like the fire stations.
Stredney’s response: “Maintenance hasn’t been done in some buildings for years.”
“We’re tired of feasibility studies and plans,” said one woman who declined to give her name. “It’s nothing but buzzwords.”
Jeff Crowley, the city’s housing and zoning code enforcement officer, said some of the issues are the result of the city’s declining population, which went from 21,000 in 1990 to 18,000 today.
“We have too many homes for the people living here,” Crowley said. “It all comes down to jobs.”
Stredney said he understood the residents’ frustration but said the city has been working on a plan to reverse the decline, which he said had been previously lacking.
Councilman Barry Profato, D-at large, one of several council members to attend the session, called for restoration of a community improvement corporation, which has been dormant in Niles for several years.
“This is our town, and we can’t do this ourselves,” Profato said.
“We’ve got a lot of issues that went unaddressed for two decades; we are trying to fix them,” Crowley said.
The code-enforcement officer said the city is taking positive steps that apparently have not been noticed by the public.
“Eventually, you’re going to catch someone doing something right,” he said.