City council, administration face potential stalemate on ARP funds

City council, administration face potential stalemate

YOUNGSTOWN — Conflicts between city council and the administration could lead to a stalemate in spending Youngstown’s American Rescue Plan funds.

City council decided Wednesday to table $3 million in ARP requests from the administration: $2 million for a small business loan fund and $1 million for a business facade program.

Council referred the two proposals to its community planning and economic development committee to talk about them before either could be considered for a vote.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and Nikki Posterli, his chief of staff and director of community planning and economic development, didn’t attend Wednesday’s council meeting or a Monday council finance committee meeting to discuss the requests.

Council on Wednesday did approve $2,019,699 in ARP funding requests for projects in their wards. That money comes from the $14 million in ARP funds city council gave its seven members — $2 million each — for such projects.

With those approvals, council has allocated about $3.25 million of that $14 million.

However, the board of control — consisting of Brown, Law Director Jeff Limbian and Finance Director Kyle Miasek — have approved only a single council-backed ARP allocation to date. That was the $160,000 purchase of a former McDonald’s restaurant at 2525 Market St. to turn it into a police substation.

Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, said the administration purposely was holding up the council-backed ARP allocations.

“I think it’s a cat-and-mouse game being played,” he said. “Council’s ARP money is being help up because they want to put the administration’s money up first. It’s a game. There’s no reason to hold up city council’s ARP funds except the administration is trying to make it difficult.”

Oliver said he sees no reason for city council to approve any more administration-backed ARP proposals.

“Why do you expect us to give you anything in return?” he said.

Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th Ward, said: “Meanwhile, our projects aren’t out there. What’s the point of putting these projects out there if the administration won’t act on them?”

Brown has said a number of times that several of the council-backed allocations are missing needed information to move forward and may not comply with federal guidelines for using ARP money so he won’t bring them to the board of control for a vote.

Council members say they have sought guidance from the administration and have received very little feedback or being ignored.

Council voted Wednesday in favor of four ARP allocations sponsored by its members.

Three were from Councilwoman Samantha Turner for a total of $1,294,699 and one from Oliver for $725,000.

Oliver’s project is for a YNDC’s revitalization effort on Glenwood and Rockview avenues and High and Bernard streets.

Council also approved legislation to spend $300,000 in ARP money for capital improvements to the play area and outdoor recreational facilities at Hillman Park, also called Falls Playground, on Falls Avenue from a $10.5 million pot it created for parks and recreation projects.

That proposal was initially a $572,551 allocation from Oliver’s $2 million. Oliver said if more than the $300,000 is needed, he’d first seek to have the additional money come from the parks and recreation department budget. If that doesn’t happen, Oliver said he’d use part of his ARP allocation for the work.

Turner’s legislation included spending $1,004,699 to support Youngstown CityScape’s “various proposed programs specifically focused on 3rd Ward revitalization,” according to the ordinance.

The specific projects weren’t included with the legislation.

When asked about them Wednesday, Turner refused to comment except to say that she knows what they are, but wasn’t going to share that information.

Despite Turner’s refusal, The Vindicator obtained a copy of her initial CityScape funding request.

It includes money for improvements to Wick Park including the running trail, concrete for the picnic pavilion, installing gardens around the recreation center, renovating the center’s kitchen, improved lighting and concrete pads for a disc golf course.

It also included sidewalk and curb repairs, planting and beautification, tool purchases and supporting various “greening and cleanup projects on the North Side,” as well as providing matching money to provide long-range planning for the Arlington Heights, Stambaugh and St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital neighborhoods.

Other projects include technical assistance and materials at CityScape’s Briel’s location — which isn’t in the 3rd Ward — and a seasonal market in the ward, $25,000 in matching funds to obtain $50,000 in operating funds for CityScape from the Youngstown Foundation and numerous other projects including a Belmont Avenue corridor beautification plan and marketing services for the ward.

Council also approved $150,000, sponsored by Turner, for Ohio Urban Renaissance, located on North Avenue, to provide renovation of the facility as well as fund programming services for at-risk youth in the areas of education, civil responsibility, community engagement, healthy lifestyles, mentorship and workforce development.

Council also agreed to Turner-backed legislation to spend $140,000 in ARP funding for Building Neighborhoods of Youngstown to provide “home roofing repairs and rehabilitation services for qualified residents” of her ward.

The city received $82,775,370 in overall ARP funding. City council has allocated about $46 million in funding though most of it hasn’t been spent.


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