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Bike trail price hike worries Youngstown council

Bike trail needs another $202K

YOUNGSTOWN — With the city facing a budget crunch, some council members expressed their displeasure with a request to increase the cost by $202,000 of a bike trail connecting the West Side to downtown.

But no council members explicitly said at a Monday finance committee meeting, held virtually, that they would vote against the proposal when it comes before them at a Wednesday meeting.

“We keep coming back month after month,” Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th, said. “What’s to say we won’t come back with another increase?”

The issue is council approved spending up to $770,000 on June 3 for the trail that goes from Mill Creek Park to West Avenue to Mahoning Avenue and will eventually connect with a bike trail being built on Fifth Avenue as part of a major improvement project to that road.

Once proposals were opened, the apparent lowest one from Marucci and Gaffney Excavating Co. of Youngstown was for about $970,000, Charles Shasho, deputy director of public works, said. The contract cannot be approved by the board of control until city council agrees to increase the cost.

The increases were caused by a redesign of the project because of conflicts with utility lines and railroad bridges, Shasho said.

“What about people in my ward? It won’t benefit them,” Davis said. “We need to come up with money to help all of our neighborhoods.”

Councilwoman Basia Adamczak, D-7th, added: “The extra $200,000 for the bike trail is a concern.”

The city received a $500,000 state grant for the bike trail three years ago through the Ohio Clean Trails Fund. The additional cost for the trail is coming from the city.

Shasho said his department will work to reduce the price by eliminating some fencing and not paving Mahoning Avenue as that was done recently, and will just stripe the road.

Shasho said he wanted to get the project done this fall, but with the additional expenses that won’t happen. He anticipates a completion date in late spring 2021, when the Fifth Avenue project is also done.

During Monday’s meeting, Kyle Miasek, interim finance director, said he would talk to council members in the fall about ways to close the city’s budget gap.

The city’s income tax collections saw another decline in May caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and are down $2 million for the year.

That could grow to as much as $4 million this year, but Miasek said the city may have slowed down the loss.

May’s income tax collections — made in early July because businesses have 30 days to give the taxes to the city — were $400,000 less than budgeted. It’s an improvement from April when collections were $904,500 less than budgeted and in March when that amount was $689,000 under budget.

The collections for June, to be determined next month, will be important because if it’s close to what was received for May, the city has a pattern and can budget accordingly, Miasek said.

“The priority is to close the budget gap,” Adamczak said.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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