Council OKs funds for demolition of Anthony’s — on second try
YOUNGSTOWN — Given a second opportunity to pay a $48,000 bill for the August demolition of the former Anthony’s on the River building, city council voted 4-3 in favor of the legislation.
City council rejected by a 4-3 vote on Aug. 26, 2020, paying the demolition bill from Steel Valley Contractors, a Youngstown company, because the building was taken down without prior notice given to its members.
During and after a Tuesday finance committee meeting, it seemed clear that the legislation would fail again Wednesday with four members stating they opposed the payment again.
But Councilman Jimmy Hughes, D-2nd Ward, voted to pay the bill Wednesday, a day after saying he didn’t support the legislation.
In attempting to explain his reversal, Hughes said Wednesday he opposed it a day earlier and didn’t think it was right to revisit the bill, but “I voted for it because you can’t change what happened. I don’t see how you get out of this debt.”
He also said he told the administration he would “never vote again this way” if the situation was the same.
Hughes had voted to pay the bill back in August.
The only member to change her vote from August to Wednesday was Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th Ward.
She said Tuesday she was supporting the legislation because it wasn’t right to “stiff” Steel Valley on the payment.
Davis repeated that Wednesday and like Hughes and other council members, she criticized the administration for the lack of communication before the demolition occurred.
“We’ve asked the administration time and time again to do a better job,” she said.
The August demolition drew the ire of several council members because it was done early despite being on the agenda.
Administration officials said it was an emergency demolition, made on the orders of fire Chief Barry Finley, because the 110-year-old building at 15 Oak Hill Ave. was in danger of collapsing.
But Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, strongly disputes that order saying the structure wasn’t in bad shape and there are plenty of others in the city that should have come down rather than this one. He also said he had a business interested in the building before it was demolished.
“As elected officials, we have a moral, ethical and professional obligation to our citizens,” he said. “This building was torn down for literally no reason.”
Law Director Jeff Limbian urged council to pay the bill, saying Steel Valley was going to sue the city for the $48,000, which will likely cost even more than that if outside legal counsel is needed. He estimated that cost at $25,000.
Two Bridges LLC, the property’s owner, and the city have filed federal lawsuits against each other. The company is seeking damages claiming the demolition was improper while the city is suing to get the $48,000 demolition cost.
In addition to Davis and Hughes, Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th Ward, and Councilwoman Lauren McNally, D-5th Ward, voted to pay the bill. Those opposing the legislation were Oliver, and Councilwomen Samantha Turner, D-3rd Ward, and Basia Adamczak, D-7th Ward.
“Although I feel that the contractor does need to be paid for work completed, I don’t agree with the process of this particular demolition,” Adamczak said.
She added: “It was defeated last year, and I don’t agree with it even coming back this time.”
Council voted 6-1 on an ordinance to accept a $60,000 grant from the state Environmental Protection Agency for eight electric-vehicle Level 2 charging ports. Half will be in a parking lot behind city hall, and the others will be in a lot next to the downtown fire station.
Davis was the lone no vote, saying it was presented Tuesday to council when the administration knew in February that it had received the grant and several questions were left unanswered. The deadline to accept the grant is next Monday. The board of control is having a special meeting today to accept the grant.
Davis said when the city “takes (grant) money and works out the details later, we end up paying more. We have to stop approving it.”
The administration not informing council “has to stop,” she said.
Several other council members echoed her statements at Tuesday’s finance meeting.
Also, council approved spending $325,000 from its speed camera citation program fund to buy six police cars and related equipment. It was deferred two weeks ago for further discussion. The police department was forced in November 2019 to end the program largely because of a change in state law.