Published November 8, 2012
The City of Youngstown is improving in many aspects.
The job situation is slowly improving overall. I find myself working in the Valley private sector for the first time since I was an 18-year-old “All American” hamburger flipper and “bun runner”.
A number of large infrastructure improvement projects are currently going on. Consider upgrades to I-80 and I-680. Meander Reservoir is being upgraded in terms of filtration capability.
Downtown Youngstown has seen considerable rebirth to many of its unused buildings. The addition of the Covelli Center is a definite attraction.
The V&M Star expansion project can barely be missed in the Brier Hill Industrial Complex. There is a major reconstruction of public housing along U.S. 422 currently underway.
Hotels are being utilized fully and new ones are being proposed and built. The technology sector has improved somewhat from the efforts of the Youngstown Business Incubator and many small private company start-ups and expansion. Though few people understand it yet, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) has designated Youngstown as its new regional hub. This will be huge for the valley in years to come.
Many efforts to improve the business and recreational aspects of Youngstown have been achieved, despite an ongoing national financial crisis. All of this investment has taken place while a housing crisis in Youngstown has existed for decades.
It is not a lack of housing, but an over abundance of abandoned homes.
For the record, this is not only occurring in Youngstown. Abandoned homes can be found in big and small cities alike all over the nation.
However, Youngstown does have an unusually high number per capita of abandoned homes which often bring down entire neighborhoods that surround them. Even with increased business in the city, Youngstown’s financial issues will only be solved once people decide to begin living in the city once again.
The Youngstown City Council has recently passed legislation allowing the city’s board of control to seek bids for leasing its public lands to oil and natural gas drilling companies.
Once these bids are received, city council will need to vote again to accept a bid or to reject all of them.
Mayor Chuck Sammarone stated in a report by CNBC that the city wants to demolish 1,100 structures at a cost of $4 million.
There is one major problem.
The city’s general fund cannot commit that amount to achieve these demolition goals. Enter the notion of “Frackmolishing”, or using money from leasing the city’s public lands to achieve these demolitions.
According to a survey conducted by the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative in 2008 and 2010 and a city zoning department survey conducted earlier this year, there are roughly 4,000 vacant structures in the city.
It is imperative to remove the 1,100 homes that have been condemned, to save the remaining 2,900 empty buildings.
In fact, there has coincidentally been a number of suspicious fires set at some of these homes. This may indicate that city residents are also frustrated at the pace of demolitions in the city.
There is fierce opposition to this initiative by anti-fracking groups in the city.
Thus the question of whether to “frackmolish” or not to “frackmolish” is currently under consideration by city council. The vote to seek bids was 5 for the motion, and 2 against.
But the act of seeking bids is merely an information gathering exercise. As stated earlier, it will require another vote of council to determine if the bids are truly beneficial to the city.
Mike Costarella is a Girard resident and software engineer who blogs about fracking.
Send questions or comments to Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org