Youngstown council approves ARP funding

$2.76M for community health workers program

YOUNGSTOWN — City council agreed to spend $2,766,488 in American Rescue Plan funding, with all but $300,000 of it to create a community health workers program.

Council voted 7-0 Wednesday to approve three ordinances to use ARP funding and 6-1 to reject spending $250,000 from the federal allocation for a park plan.

The big-ticket item Wednesday was $2,466,488 for a program to have community health workers in the city starting next year. There would be one worker for each of the four sides of the city as well as a coordinator and an epidemiologist, who would study disease statistics and recommend ways to improve health for city residents, said Erin Bishop, health commissioner.

The program would run for four years, she said, with the hope that it could continue with other funding.

The four health workers would be based out of a community organization’s office on those sides of the city to use as meeting space.

The health workers would serve as liaisons to residents for issues including property conditions, park space, abandoned tire cleanups and health issues.

Council also agreed to spend $150,000 in ARP funds to support the work of the Vibrant Valley Health Equity Project. Mahoning County already approved $150,000 for the project that puts together a workbook for health agencies and other organizations to distribute to focus on health equity.

This is a result of city council’s June 2020 declaration that racism is a public health crisis, Bishop said.

Councilwoman Samantha Turner, D-3rd Ward, had said Monday she supported the two programs, but wouldn’t vote in favor of them Wednesday because council hasn’t received a complete plan for how the city will use its $82,773,370 ARP allocation and each request needs to be discussed at a separate council meeting before a vote.

However, she voted Wednesday in favor of the funding.

Council also backed a $150,000 ARP funding request to make improvements to parks throughout the city.

Council members postponed a vote on that proposal at a May 18 meeting because they wanted a list of what was to be done with the money. That list was provided at a June 8 finance committee meeting.

It includes replacing and repairing pavilions at three parks, making repairs to playground equipment at two parks, work at the Henry Stambaugh Golf Course and replacing picnic tables, benches and trash / recycling containers at 10 parks and the Northside Pool as well as installing a shade structure at the pool.

Council rejected a $250,000 request Wednesday to pay a consultant to develop a park plan. Council members said last week there was no need to spend that amount of money on a study when most of the work could be done by city officials.

Councilwoman Basia Adamczak, D-7th Ward, last week provided a detailed proposal to spend $9.4 million in ARP funds for parks and recreation projects.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Turner was the lone vote in favor of spending the $250,000 on the study.

“I believe it is imperative that we develop a quality park plan,” she said.

Councilwoman Lauren McNally, D-5th Ward, said: “I don’t want it misrepresented in any way, shape or form” that council doesn’t support the parks.

McNally said council “came to a moving-forward plan (last week) that allows us to put that $250,000 to better use,” and “we have a plan to move forward to keep momentum going, and I want to make sure our vote tonight isn’t misrepresented.”

McNally urged people to watch last week’s meeting online to understand that council members decided doing the work in-house was a more efficient way to address park needs.

Turner was the only council member who didn’t attend last week’s meeting, which was done virtually.


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