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Youngstown City Council OKs $377,500 for 3 improvement projects

Former Foster Theatre to get major renovation

Staff file photo / The marquee at the former Foster Theatre on Glenwood Avenue touts the goal of revitalizing the structure. Toward that end, Youngstown City Council on Wednesday approved spending $100,000 for the theater project overseen by the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp.

YOUNGSTOWN — City council approved $377,500 in American Rescue Plan spending Wednesday and expects to vote on considerably more projects using the federal funds Dec. 21, its last meeting of the year.

Several council members said they plan to seek additional ARP allocations for larger amounts of money at the next meeting.

Council voted for three ARP-funded ordinances Wednesday.

The most expensive one was $187,500 to the Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber for it to “produce and implement a strategy that will help spur development in and around the city,” according to the ordinance.

The legislation, sponsored by Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, is for a three-year contract with the chamber, which is matching the $187,500 paid by the city.

The chamber will identify acreage and viable buildings for potential development, and maintain a database so the city can quickly respond to requests from large companies for available sites, said Nikki Posterli, Brown’s chief of staff and head of the city’s community planning and economic development department.

The chamber also will assist with state and local financing.

Another project is to provide $100,000 to the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. toward the renovation of the former Foster Art Theatre at 2504 Glenwood Ave. The ordinance, sponsored by Councilwoman Lauren McNally, D-5th Ward, would help the YNDC convert the old adult movie theater into two commercial units and four apartments.

Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th Ward, said one of her proposals at the Dec. 21 meeting will be to give $100,000 to YNDC for the theater project.

The project will cost at least $1 million with YNDC seeking additional funding sources, said Ian Beniston, its executive director. The work could start next fall and take about nine months to complete.

The final ARP expenditure approved Wednesday by council is $90,000 to Family Empowerment Student Achievement Institute.

The ordinance, sponsored by Councilman Jimmy Hughes, D-2nd Ward, would go toward tutorial services to under-educated former Youngstown school district students who don’t have the “educational tools to be economically viable and qualified to acquire the knowledge, skills and abilities to legally engage in meaningful work to sustain themselves and their families,” according to the ordinance.

City council in April gave itself $14 million — $2 million for each of its seven members — of the city’s ARP funding for work in their wards.

The city’s board of control has to authorize the funding for each of the proposals for them to be implemented.

That has been an issue with board of control members saying they won’t approve council-backed projects unless they are compliant with federal ARP guidelines.

With the ordinances approved Wednesday, council has voted for about $3.46 million for projects using its designated ARP allocation. To date, the board has authorized $1.55 million worth of them.

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

One of the larger untouched allocations — $8 million to demolish abandoned houses in the city — will be reduced because of a $5.3 million grant received from the Ohio Building Demolition and Site Revitalization Program that will pay to take down 473 vacant structures in Youngstown. The grant was announced Tuesday.

The city has an additional 400 vacant houses that need to be demolished and will use ARP funds for that work, said Michael Durkin, its code enforcement and blight remediation superintendent.

He said he couldn’t say how much of the ARP money would be spent toward demolition, but it would be a decrease from the $8 million figure.

Council also met for more than 30 minutes in executive session with administration officials to discuss what can be done about the city ambulance issue.

American Medical Response is seeking an annual subsidy from Youngstown of $1.8 million to $2.6 million to continue to provide ambulance service to the city or the company will pull out. AMR wants a three-year contract, but city officials said the company signaled recently that it may be willing to sign a contract for a shorter period of time.

City council wants to purchase used ambulances for a potential city-run ambulance service. But the administration says that will take a long time to establish and a considerable amount of money to run.

AMR’s contract with the city expires Dec. 31.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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