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Lordstown demands plant fund traffic signal

Local leaders get involved in fray

LORDSTOWN — The village is threatening to revisit site plan approval for Ultium Cells — a facility that eventually will employ more than 1,000 local workers — unless it agrees to reimburse Lordstown for costs associated with a temporary traffic signal on state Route 45.

And if Ultium Cells doesn’t agree to pay $15,000 for the design work and up to $30,000 to install the signal, village council, when it meets today, also will repeal an ordinance approved Sept. 6 accepting the design and construction proposals for the signal.

A letter Sept. 7 from village solicitor Paul M. Dutton to Ultium Cells and General Motors executives seeks confirmation the auto parts maker will repay Lordstown for the work.

Otherwise, it states, council would request the village Planning Commission revisit approval of the site plan and repeal the legislation.

One of the items on today’s agenda is to rescind the earlier approval.

Dutton’s letter and the concept that village officials will follow through has drawn the displeasure of several local elected, business and economic development officials.

The group in a letter Sunday to village council “strongly urge” that council “reject any notion” of rescinding the ordinance as well as asking the village’s Planning Commission to revisit site plan approval.

It states Mayor Arno Hill and council agreed publicly that Lordstown should pay for the temporary signal and the ordinance — approved by council and later signed by Hill — does not stipulate any sort of reimbursement.

Dutton’s letter, dated one day after the Sept. 6 vote, is “inappropriate,” the letter to council states.

“Such action, taken against a company creating more than 1,000 jobs, with the potential to create in excess of 1,000 additional jobs, and investing more than $2 billion in our community, would have a chilling effect on other companies considering expansion in or relocation to our community,” the group’s letter states.

According to Dutton’s letter, Kellie Bordner, the village’s planning and zoning administrator, told council Sept. 6 that as part of the site plan review process, Ultium Cells agreed to do a traffic study and, if recommended, to install a traffic signal at the plant’s entrance driveway on state Route 45.

Columbus-based DLZ, a consulting firm in the architectural, engineering and surveying industries, determined in a study done in May 2020 “the installation of a traffic signal at the employee driveway for the proposed Magellan projects is recommended for mitigation.”

Magellan was the early working name for the facility.

Bordner also told council that approval of the Ultium Cells project was conditioned on four items that needed completed, including the traffic study and installation of the light.

There is no mention, however, in Dutton’s letter regarding Bordner’s statements whether the signal is temporary or permanent.

Likewise, it appears in DLZ’s summary from the study, there is no distinction between a temporary signal or permanent signal; it just states a traffic signal is recommended.

The Sept. 6 ordinance authorizes the village to accept the design proposal from CT Consultants Inc., the engineering firm used by Lordstown, and the construction proposal from Main Lite Electric Co. in Warren.

A spokeswoman for Ultium Cells said the company would be disappointed if council proceeds to repeal the ordinance. A traffic signal, according to Brooke Waid, would enhance public safety on state Route 45.

She also noted the Sept. 6 ordinance did not call for the land developer / owner to pay for the engineering of the temporary signal. Instead, the legislation “was specific that the village would pay for the costs relating to (a) temporary signal,” she wrote in an email.

She added the company is prepared to work with the village, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments and the state “on a collaborative solution for (a) permanent signal that supports public safety at the employee entrance” on state Route 45.

Hill said he is staying neutral.

“You pick your battles, and this one, I’m going to sit back and let council let everybody know what their opinion is,” he said.

It remained unclear late Sunday what impact, if any, such action by council to revisit Ultium Cells’ site plan approval might have on the new plant’s operations.

Ultium Cells is a joint venture between GM and South Korea’s LG Energy Solutions to mass produce EV battery cells for the automaker. The $2.3 billion leading-edge factory in Lordstown is the first in operation of four either under construction or planned.

The company in August announced production had started, and it plans to begin shipping parts for use in GM vehicles by the end of the year.

The factory employs about 800 workers now and expects to well exceed the 1,100 workers the company anticipated it would need, a top official said Aug. 31.

The batteries will go into such vehicles now as the Hummer and Chevrolet Silverado EVs and the Cadillac Lyriq electric SUV.

Opposed to action

Those who sent a letter Sunday to Lordstown council requesting it reject any notion of rescinding an ordinance for design and construction of a temporary traffic light for Ultium Cells as well as asking the village’s Planning Commission to revisit site plan approval for the plant are:

Anthony Cafaro Jr., co-president, The Cafaro Company

Mauro Cantalamessa, Trumbull County commissioner

Sam Covelli, president / CEO, Covelli Enterprises

Guy Coviello, president / CEO, Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber

James Kinnick, executive director, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments

Ron Klingle, CEO / CAO, Avalon Holdings

Martin Loney, board chairman, Western Reserve Port Authority

Teresa Miller, executive director, Valley Economic Development Partners

Edward Muransky, CEO, The Muransky Companies

Anthony Payiavlas, president / CEO, AVI Foodsystems

Carol Rimedio-Righetti, chairwoman, Mahoning County commissioners

Michael Schrock, board chairman, Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber

Anthony Trevena, executive director, Western Reserve Port Authority

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