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Youngstown City Council to control $14M in ARP funds

City to vote on giving each ward $2M

YOUNGSTOWN — City council members decided $1 million in American Rescue Plan money for each of the seven wards wasn’t enough and will vote Wednesday to double that — using a total of $14 million of the federal funds.

Councilwoman Basia Adamczak, D-7th Ward, brought up at Monday’s finance committee giving $2 million to each ward to be controlled by council members. Council was planning to vote Wednesday on appropriating $1 million for each of the seven wards, but will amend it to twice that amount.

“I was initially apprehensive with the $1 million for each ward, but now as I see the needs I want to allocate more to each ward,” she said. “I want to make sure my ward receives the financial assistance the residents need. I don’t believe $14 million for our neighborhoods is much to ask for.”

Council solely will determine how the $14 million would be spent. The ordinance calls for the money “to be used by Youngstown City Council specifically and equally in each ward of the city.”

Other council members quickly supported Adamczak’s proposal.

All six council members at Monday’s finance committee meeting said they would vote in favor of the amended request when council meets Wednesday. Councilman Jimmy Hughes, D-2nd Ward, didn’t attend the finance committee meeting.

“As I’ve been playing out the uses of my money, I’ve gone through it fast,” Councilwoman Lauren McNally, D-5th Ward, said. “The needs are so great because we haven’t done anything in the wards for years.”

Improvements to Mahoning Avenue in her ward would use up a large amount of the $1 million so another $1 million is needed, McNally said.

“If I have $2 million, I know more things will happen in my ward,” she said.

Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th Ward, who first had proposed the money for the wards, said she initially wanted $3 million.

She said an undisclosed “significant project on Market Street” in her ward would cost about $250,000.

The $14 million would be used to help residents in need of new roofs or other house repairs and to create parks, among other expenses, Davis said.

The city received $82,775,370 in ARP funding. The $14 million would be almost 17 percent of the entire award.

Councilwoman Samantha Turner, D-3rd Ward, said she is “very, very reluctant” to double the ward allocation until she sees a comprehensive proposal from the administration about plans for all of the ARP funding. But she said she’d vote Wednesday in favor of the ordinance.

“I don’t mind setting it aside, but I want to see how it’s handled,” Turner said.

Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th Ward, also will vote for the $14 million, but doesn’t want to rush into council spending it right away.

Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, said that $1 million per ward could be spent quickly and he wants the focus to be on the neighborhoods.

MORE ARP SPENDING

Also Wednesday, council will vote on appropriating $3,930,400 from the ARP fund into the general fund to make up for income tax revenue lost in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will not transfer any money for revenue lost in 2021.

The deadline to appropriate the money for that purpose is approaching quickly, Finance Director Kyle Miasek said. But the plan actually isn’t to spend the money until later in the year, he said.

“It is like a life preserver,” Miasek said. “We’ll keep it on the sidelines until we get to the end of 2022.”

Council will also vote Wednesday to give $129,000 in ARP funds to the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods (ACTION), a faith-based community organization, to purchase a mobile food truck and equipment to “deliver groceries to the city’s most vulnerable residents,” according to proposed legislation.

Other agencies also will be providing money to ACTION for this project, with an estimated cost of $380,000 to $400,000, Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said.

Between the ward funding, the money to the general fund and ACTION, council will vote Wednesday to appropriate $18,059,400 of the $82,775,370 in ARP funding the city received. That’s 21.8 percent of the entire amount.

Council previously has approved about $9.7 million in ARP spending. The largest amount, by far, is $8 million to demolish at least 500 of the city’s worst vacant homes, but the city has only spent $70,000 of that so far to hire Safeguard Title Agency, a Youngstown company, to do title searches for the structures to date.

CAMERA AND AMBULANCE DELAY

Council will not vote Wednesday on two separate pieces of legislation that it had planned to consider: establishing a program for speed cameras in school zones and paying $62,500 per month through the end of the year to AMR Ambulance, which provides ambulance services in the city.

The details of both proposals need to be finalized and there wasn’t enough time to do that for Wednesday’s council meeting, Law Director Jeff Limbian said.

Both will be in front of council for consideration at its April 20 meeting, he said.

On March 24, council’s safety committee recommended votes for the two proposals at this Wednesday’s council meeting.

The speed-camera proposal would put unmanned cameras, mounted to poles, in school zones and issue citations to vehicles owners by mail for those going at least 11 mph over the speed limit.

The city would get 65 percent of the money with Blue Line Solutions of Chattanooga, Tenn., getting the remaining 35 percent. Blue Line would install the cameras and monitor them.

The AMR proposal would give that company $62,500 per month in ARP funding to have four ambulances in the city rather than the current three. That would be $500,000 for the last eight months of this year.

Ed Powers, AMR’s regional director, has said the company is losing money with its contract with the city. It costs about $300 for an average ambulance run, but Medicaid reimburses about $130, he said. About half of the people in the city who use AMR are on Medicaid, he said.

Some city residents don’t have any medical insurance and AMR receives no money for those runs, Powers said.

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