City council paves the way for Mahoning Ave. improvements
YOUNGSTOWN — City council authorized the board of control to approve an agreement with the state on major improvement work to Mahoning Avenue and were told legislation for two other big projects would be proposed next month.
Council voted 7-0 Wednesday on legislation to have the board sign a contract with the Ohio Department of Transportation for the estimated $3.7 million improvement project to Mahoning Avenue from Meridian Road to the Interstate 680 interchange that would start in 2025.
That contract comes with a $2.6 million federal grant administered by the state that would pay most of the project’s cost, with $350,000 coming from the city’s American Rescue Plan funds and the rest from the city’s auto license fee.
But Charles Shasho, deputy director of public works, said he expected a $658,620 state grant would cover most or all of those remaining costs.
The project includes road resurfacing, drainage improvements, new curbs, sidewalks and signs to one of the main corridors on the city’s West Side.
It is the third major improvement project planned for the street.
The city plans next year to spend about $4.5 million on a waterline replacement project on sections of Mahoning Avenue and $1.7 million on a traffic light replacement project, from Oak Hill Avenue to Meridian Road. Of the latter work’s expense, 80% will be covered by a federal grant administered by the state.
At a finance committee meeting before the full council meeting, Shasho and city Finance Director Kyle Miasek said the administration would ask for the legislative body’s approval at its Sept. 20 meeting for a $5 million ARP allocation for planning and design work for an interceptor sewer to keep wastewater from flowing into Mill Creek. They also said a request at that meeting would be made for emergency repairs to the roof at the city-owned Covelli Centre.
Miasek estimated the cost of the roof repairs at $1.5 million to $2 million and said about half of the expense would come from profits made at the center.
Ice and snow on the roof have caused extensive damage, Miasek said. Also, water is leaking into the center’s kitchen and into some of the loges, he said.
A contract for the roof work will be sought soon, but because of the amount of materials needed and lack of availability, the project likely wouldn’t start until next spring, Shasho said.
There would likely be scaffolding erected in December or January, Miasek said.
Councilman Jimmy Hughes, D-2nd Ward, said he wanted to know why it wasn’t until now that council was hearing about the issue.
Miasek said a study of the roof was done only recently.
The interceptor sewer work is part of the city’s $160 million worth of wastewater improvements it is required to do under a 2014 settlement it reached with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA originally had ordered the city in 2002 to do $310 million worth of work, but it was negotiated down to $160 million in 2014 with the expectation it would be finished in 20 years.
The city is trying to get that price tag lowered with officials saying it is too high.
The first phase, which is mostly done, is to improve the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
The city has skipped the second phase, which is a new facility near the treatment plant to better control sewage in heavier rainfalls and is slowly moving ahead with the third phase. The third phase is to replace 13 lines that dump wastewater into Mill Creek and build an interceptor.
Before Wednesday’s council meeting, held at the Mahoning County Courthouse, members of SOBE Concerned Citizens held a protest, urging city officials to publicly state their opposition to SOBE Thermal Energy Systems LLC’s plan to shred tires that would be converted into gas to provide steam energy at its plant at 205 North Ave., a short distance from the city’s downtown.
Several council members and administration officials already have expressed opposition.
“What we’re saying is we want to stand with city officials and tell them no to SOBE,” Susie Beiersdorfer of Youngstown, a SOBE Concerned Citizens member, said. “We’re not guinea pigs. Don’t put something that’s not been proven safe near our residents.”
The Ohio EPA held a lengthy public hearing Aug. 10 to receive public feedback on the proposal. Most of those who attended the meeting oppose the project.
The project needs state EPA approval for permits to move forward.
City council’s environment, climate and sustainability committee will meet today to recommend the full legislative body pass a resolution, likely at the Sept. 20 meeting, in formal opposition to the plan.