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Youngstown council delays $3M action for central safety campus

YOUNGSTOWN — City council chose to delay a vote on a $3 million American Rescue Plan spending request from the administration to hire an architectural firm for a proposed safety-service campus.

Also Wednesday, council rejected three separate requests from Councilwoman Amber White, I-7th Ward, to repeal $1.37 million in ARP spending it approved Dec. 20 that was sponsored by Basia Adamczak during her last meeting representing the 7th Ward.

The $3 million in ARP spending for the architectural firm looked as if it were going to pass when council discussed it extensively with administration officials at a Wednesday finance committee before the full council meeting.

The only council member to vocally oppose the legislation at the finance committee was Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th Ward.

But during the regular meeting, Councilman Pat Kelly, D-5th Ward, asked that the proposal be moved to a second reading with Davis supporting the request.

Council could have approved the ordinance without an emergency clause Wednesday, which would have allowed it to take effect 30 days after it was approved. But it instead opted to give it a first reading.

After the meeting, Kelly said he was “tired” of the administration coming to council with various financial requests, including this one, and then ignoring the wishes of the members.

“Across the board, I don’t think all of us are 7-0 on a safety campus,” Kelly said. “I want further discussion for a $3 million design and $40 million for a safety campus. We need much more than one reading.”

The legislation, sponsored by Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, was to be a major step toward an envisioned $45 million safety-service complex on the city’s North Side, near the Liberty Township border. Brown said the architectural firm would provide a firm cost for the project.

Brown in December asked council to consider spending up to $15 million in ARP funds for the facility, but several members said it was too much money and didn’t like the location.

Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th Ward, who said there are concerns with the location, initially proposed in Wednesday’s finance committee to keep the proposal in that committee for further discussion.

Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, who supports the location, said he didn’t object to that request “to make sure people are comfortable.”

But Brown said: “We have had further discussion. How do we keep this moving forward? Council wanted hard numbers and this would do that.”

Charles Shasho, deputy director of public works, said to get the project going, the design work is needed and he plans to create a site selection committee that would include two council members to discuss the location.

Also, Finance Director Kyle Miasek said that ARP funds have to be allocated under federal law by Dec. 31 or the city would have to return the rest.

After the administration officials spoke, a majority of council was prepared to vote for the $3 million ARP allocation.

But then Kelly spoke, and the vote was postponed.

The site proposed by the administration is on Wick Avenue at what was known as the Wick Six, a group of new car dealerships that left in the 1980s as the area deteriorated.

The city purchased much of the 12 acres of property in 2015 and has spent at least $750,000, most of it from grants, to clean up the area for development.

The city doesn’t have enough remaining money left in its ARP allocation to spend $10 million to $15 million toward the proposed campus. Brown previously said approved funding requests by council could be reallocated. He mentioned $10.5 million for parks and recreation projects and $2 million for property acquisition to permit the city to buy land for business development and to help rebuild neighborhoods.

The administration wants to spend $45 million on a 138,000-square-foot space for the police and main fire building.

Whatever money wouldn’t come from the ARP fund as well as potential state and federal funds would be borrowed by the city over a 20-year period.

The project would take eight to 10 months to design and another 18 to 24 months to construct.

The city has spent about $11.4 million of its $82.8 million ARP award, but council has approved allocating all but about $8.5 million of it.

Also Wednesday, requests by White to repeal three ARP allocations, totaling $1,373,093, were rejected by council. Only White and Councilwoman Samantha Turner, D-3rd Ward, voted in favor of repealing the ordinances.

White had objected to Adamczak depleting the ward’s $2 million ARP allocation. Council voted in April 2022 to give each of its seven members $2 million in ARP funds for ward projects.

The largest item that White wanted repealed was $1.3 million for the Youngstown Foundation to serve as fiscal agent for a major improvement project at Ipes Kids World to turn it into the city’s first all-inclusive park and the biggest such park in the state.

The two other requests by White were to repeal $52,000 for neighborhood block watches through the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. and $21,093 for Organizacion Civica y Cultural Hispana Americana for facility improvements.

White said the $1.3 million for the park needs another $600,000 to be finished with no definitive plan to find that money.

“I’m very sick and tired of not seeing a plan to sustain it,” White said.

Oliver said of White: “You don’t have a pulse for this community or this ward,” and “it just seems so personal” against Adamczak.

White insisted it wasn’t personal and that the money could be better used in the ward, mentioning sidewalk replacements as one possibility.

Also Wednesday, council approved a $60,000 ARP request, sponsored by Brown, to give to United Returning Citizens for administration of its expungement program. The organization helps those released from prison transition into the community.

Council gave a first reading on a request from Davis to spend $52,000 of her ward’s ARP funds for YNDC to do renovations and improvements to the Beyond Expectations Barber College on Glenwood Avenue.

Davis sponsored legislation that was passed June 21 to give $55,000 to sponsor five students at the barber school. It was repealed Dec. 6 by council after it was determined it would be better used for equipment at the facility.

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