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Covelli payment nearing approval

Council committee postpones purchase of police vehicles

YOUNGSTOWN — City council is expected Wednesday to approve legislation to make the largest-ever principal payment toward its Covelli Centre loan, and to end a tax abatement for a company that went out of business five years ago.

Council’s finance committee met Monday and recommended the full legislative body approve these ordinances, among others.

But a proposal to use $325,000 in a fund from speed camera citation collections for the purchase of six police cars and related equipment will go to council’s safety committee for further discussion.

The request to postpone approval of the police purchase was made at the request of Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th Ward, who is on the finance committee and is chairwoman of the safety committee.

The city got rid of its speed cameras in November 2019 because of a provision in the state’s transportation budget that called for communities using speed and red-light cameras for civil citations to have their Local Government Fund money reduced the following year by the amount they collect in camera revenue.

The city received about $2.2 million in 2019 in speed camera money and was to receive about $1.7 million in LGF money in 2020. LGF money can go toward the general fund while the speed-camera funds are restricted by city law for police purposes.

The city collected about $178,000 last year from people cited in 2019 by the speed cameras.

The fund has about $440,000 in it with plans to use about $115,000 to fund the city’s Community Initiative to Reduce Violence program.

Council is expected Wednesday to authorize the board of control to terminate a tax abatement given in 2005 to Allied Consolidated Industries, which operated a steel erecting and dismantling business on Poland Road until it filed for bankruptcy in 2016. The property was sold three years later.

Allied was given approval for a 75-percent, 10-year tax abatement in 2005 to expand its business, promising to create 21 jobs. It never created a single job.

This came after the company received a tax abatement from the city in 1994, saying it would create 50 new jobs and retain 70 others. It received a full 10-year tax abatement even though its workforce dropped to 29 people.

City economic development officials couldn’t be reached Monday to comment on how many years Allied received the abatement, how much property tax money it saved and why it took this long to rescind the abatement.

Some years were left on the abatement when the property was sold two years ago and unused years on a tax abatement stay with the land so likely the expectation was to give the remaining amount to a business relocating there.

It was sold at auction for about $5.3 million to Red Barn Ohio, an Oakland, Calif., company.

Council finance committee members said nothing Monday about a plan to pay $1.46 million in principal this year toward the loan the city took out in 2005 to fund its portion of the Covelli Centre project. But the committee recommended its passage Wednesday by council.

This would be, by far, the largest principal payment for the city-owned facility. The previous largest amount was $900,000 in both 2019 and 2020.

The city borrowed $11.9 million in 2005 to pay its part of the construction of the $45 million center.

The city still owes $6.56 million in principal. That would drop to $5.1 million after the payment is made in July.

Also Monday, the finance committee recommended the purchase of 50 devices for up to $55,000 to monitor breaks in the city’s waterlines in real time.

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