Administration to watch closely council’s ARP spending plans
YOUNGSTOWN — City council plans Wednesday to approve $684,685 in American Rescue Plan-funded projects from the $14 million allocation it gave its members, but administration officials said they won’t authorize the work without first determining whether the expenditures are permissible under federal law.
“We have a lot of reservations,” city Finance Director Kyle Miasek said during a Monday council finance committee meeting. “We’re going to be thorough in reviewing these agreements to make sure how (ARP funds) are being expended.”
City council voted April 6 to give its members control over $14 million of the city’s ARP funding, which is $2 million per member.
For the first time, council will vote Wednesday on projects — four in all — from that $14 million.
The largest amount is $300,000, sponsored by Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, for small business assistance grants for the east end of Federal Street, where Youngstown Flea, Penguin City Brewing Co. and D.O.P.E. Cider House & Winery operate.
Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th Ward, is seeking to spend $160,000 in ARP money to purchase the former McDonald’s at 2525 Market St., which closed December 2017, in order to convert it into a police substation and community center.
The amount doesn’t include any needed improvements to the building.
Councilwoman Basia Adamczak, D-7th Ward, is requesting $130,685 from her ward’s ARP funding for improvement to Lynn Park while Councilwoman Lauren McNally, D-5th Ward, is seeking $94,000 for emergency home repairs and roof replacement project for low-income residents in her ward.
Miasek said he is working with council members on their requests and is urging them to use fiscal agents who have previously had success in handling community development projects for the city, such as the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. YDNC is the fiscal agent for the projects sponsored by Adamczak and McNally.
“The board of control has to actually approve the projects,” said Miasek, who serves on that body with Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and Law Director Jeff Limbian. “The board of control has to review the documents on how the money will be spent and who’s the fiscal agent.”
Councilwoman Samantha Turner, D-3rd Ward, had questions about the sustainability of Davis’ request to buy the McDonald’s on Market Street and the lack of a fiscal agent.
“I’m nervous for us to buy a building and (improve) it without a plan,” Turner said.
Davis said she has a plan for the building, which would be used by auxiliary and reserve officers, once those are brought back by the police department, as well as full-time officers and the ward’s community police officer when needed. Also, it will be meeting space for community groups and brings a building, that’s been closed since December 2017, back into use.
“There is a plan of use,” she said.
Police presence is needed in the area in an effort to reduce crime and make that part of Market Street safer, Davis said.
“Sustainability” after ARP funds run out is a concern for long-term projects, Brown said.
“We need to have a detailed conversation on what else is needed,” he said.
The city is in talks with the Economic Action Group, a Youngstown organization that works with the city on ARP, to possibly have it review allocations from the fund to third parties, Miasek said.
The city was awarded $82,775,370 in ARP funding and has earmarked about half of it to date.
Council will also vote Wednesday on a new contract with the union that represents emergency 911 dispatchers. There are about 13 members in what is the city’s smallest employee union.
The union has been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2020.
Both sides have agreed to a fact finder report that gives union members a 3 percent raise as soon as the contract is ratified. That matches the 1 percent raise given to other unions in 2021 and 2 percent this year, Miasek said. There is no retroactive pay.
Union members would get 2.5 percent raises in 2023 and 2024, which also matches what other unions have been given in contract negotiations.
Once the raise takes effect, the starting salary would be increased to $16 an hour and the top of the pay scale, after five years on the job, would be $19 an hour. In 2023, a new step, for those with six years of experience, would be created with pay at $20 an hour.
Council plans Wednesday to approve a 41.3 percent raise for Michael Durkin, the code enforcement and blight remediation superintendent.
The request from the administration is for Durkin’s annual salary to go from $55,769 to $78,827.
Adamczak said the increase is “merited.” Davis said the previous salary “was not sufficient” and Durkin deserves the raise.