Austintown trustees celebrate ARP funds for street sweeper
YOUNGSTOWN — Austintown Township trustees celebrated with the Mahoning County commissioners Thursday that Austintown will get a new street sweeper sometime in 2024, thanks to $287,688 in American Rescue Plan funds the commissioners awarded the township.
The commissioners awarded the “big check” to the trustees Thursday, even though the funds were set aside for the vehicle a couple of months ago.
A key to the township getting the money was the knowledge of township administrator, Mark D’Apolito, who formerly worked as a Mahoning County assistant prosecutor in the civil division.
In that role, he became knowledgeable regarding the rules that govern the ways in which ARP funds can be used. He said a street sweeper is eligible for ARP funding because a street sweeper removes debris and salt from the roads, which can keep those materials from getting into storm water, thereby helping with water quality, which is eligible for the funding.
D’Apolito said it’s not clear yet when the vehicle will be built and ready for delivery, but it should be sometime next year.
Trustee Robert Santos said in the amount of time it takes for the current street sweeper to clean one road, an average new street sweeper could clean three to five roads. “So this is going to greatly increase the efficiency we have,” Santos said.
Trustee Monica Deavers said the township mechanics are “going to love that we have a new street sweeper.” She said the current street sweeper is in the shop for repair “more than it was out working on the streets.”
Commissioner Carol Rimedio Righetti called D’Apolito a valuable “mediator to see what can be done and what can’t because you’ve been on both sides of that, so you guys are lucky,” she said to the trustees.
The commissioners last week celebrated their allocation of $279,831 in Criminal Justice sales tax funds being allocated to replace “Bear,” the armored vehicle the Mahoning Valley Crisis Response Team uses to address critical incidents, such as hostage situations.
The commissioners also approved the 2024 budgets for the criminal justice fund of $39 million and the general fund of $44,125,000. Those are the same amounts the the commissioners and County Administrator Audrey Tillis said the budgets would be when they had budget hearings one month ago.
The criminal justice fund is 8.3% higher than this year’s and the general-fund budget is about 5.4% higher.
The criminal justice fund pays for departments such as the sheriff’s office, jail, prosecutor’s office, 911 center and coroner’s office. The general fund pays for most of the other county departments, including the courts, commissioners office, clerk of courts, board of elections, auditor and treasurer.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE SALES TAX RENEWAL
Commissioner David Ditzler spoke during the meeting about the five-year renewal of the 0.75% sales tax to fund criminal justice services that will be on the ballot this spring.
An informational sheet the commissioners have given to the public states the $31.7 million generated by the criminal justice sales tax represents 81.2 percent of the funds that make up the $39 million criminal justice fund budget.
The sheet states that if voters do not approve the renewal, it would “severely cripple mandated services in the county jail ad court system to the point of fiscal watch by the state.”
Ditzler addressed criticism he has heard by saying criminal justice sales tax is an example of the commissioners’ philosophy that “This board presents to the community opportunities to vote on whatever the need exits within the community.”
In addition to the criminal justice tax being on the ballot every five years, the quarter of one percent roads and bridges sales tax also went on the ballot in 2021 as a 5-year tax and was approved.
Ditzler said the trustees for all 14 townships asked the commissioners for help with their roads. “We put to the people a quarter percent sales tax that brought about $10 million per year … to the county to do roads on a five-year limited basis.”