YOUNGSTOWN – Mahoning County Commissioners recently awarded $ 2 million of the county’s $ 44 million US stimulus package to the Mahoning County Community Improvement Corporation for projects in Campbell, Struthers and elsewhere in the county.
The Western Reserve Port Authority runs the CIC for Commissioners.
Although the commissioners announced the $ 750,000 for a Campbell project in October, they voted to award the money at a meeting in late December, as well as $ 750,000 for a project at Struthers and $ 500,000 for development. economic in other communities.
The Struthers project will focus on improving downtown Struthers and will be carried out in conjunction with a comprehensive plan being developed with KO Consulting of Struthers, said Mayor Catherine Cercone Miller. The community engagement phase of the plan will begin in a few weeks.
âAt Struthers we have a lot of vacant buildings that are sitting there, and that’s all they’ve been doing for years and years,â she said. In some cases, a business will settle for a while and then leave.
âWe want to make the city center a place of destination,â she said. Right now people stop at a few restaurants and at the aluminum extrusion company AstroShapes, “but we want this to not just be through downtown, but get out of your car and see. what we have at Struthers “.
The Los Gallos building on South Bridge Street has been “so stuffed” over the years and hasn’t sold for the sheriff’s sale, so the city acquired the building from the city’s land reserve. Through the overall plan, the city wants to see what type of business will âfitâ the best there, she said.
âRight now we have a really big vacuum for a breakfast / coffee,â Miller said. âWe are trying to fill these voids to make it a city center within walking distance. In addition to Bridge Street, the project and part of the overall plan will focus on State Street and Lowellville Road.
Another goal will be to establish an outdoor gathering space near the CASTLO industrial park in the downtown area and establish facade grants for existing businesses of around $ 200,000, the mayor said.
The city would like to seize some abandoned buildings and demolish some. Part of the money will be used to rehabilitate certain buildings. âWe just want to move because our downtown has been stagnant for so long,â she said. “We want people to fix their buildings or sell them and bring someone in.”
She said city officials would like to create a bicycle and hiking trail in the city to involve the Mahoning River and Yellow Creek, but a specific path has not been determined.
RLE DU CIC
Sarah Lown, director of public finance for the Western Reserve Port Authority, said the Mahoning County CIC is the economic development arm of the commissioners. The port authority manages the CIC.
Campbell and Struthers are eligible for Commissioners’ ARP funds because they are “eligible enumeration areas,” Lown said.
The commissioners awarded an additional $ 500,000 to CIC to “provide further economic development opportunities to other areas and other businesses that may not fall under the guidance of the ARP funds,” said Audrey Tillis, administrator of the county. She said CIC would decide which projects to fund with this money.
The Campbell Project is helping the city with its 12th Street Corridor Project, which will involve burn reduction. The project will also provide street improvement and assistance to small businesses, Lown said.
The project could also include improved access to St. John The Baptist Catholic Church, which is the only one of three Campbell Catholic churches to remain open as part of a plan to reorganize the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown.
The $ 500,000 will go to CIC, but the port authority will also work with CIC on these projects, Tillis said.
The Youngstown Economic Action Group received $ 60,000 to create a website to help the group achieve the goals set out in a project called Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystems.
E3 focuses its business development efforts on encouraging âinclusive innovation and economic development,â according to an E3 brochure. âOur ultimate goal is to see every city we work with develop a connected and resourced (system) to support entrepreneurship for all,â the brochure states.
The website will allow the Economic Action Group “to be more data-driven in tracking (projects) than we have been,” said Nick ChrÃ©tien, Executive Director of the Economic Action Group.
The database will be used by various economic development organizations, county officials said.
The economic action group operates in economically disadvantaged communities in Mahoning and Trumbull counties “with a focused focus on downtown Youngstown,” according to the group’s website.
The commissioners also awarded $ 250,000 in ARP funds to the Mahoning County Homeless Continuum of Care. Colleen Kosta is the coordinator of the organization, which has been in Mahoning County for about 20 years.
She said the organization, which receives funds from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, coordinates homeless services in Mahoning County and provides funds to nonprofit organizations for housing.
âWe will try to use it mainly for emergency services – shelter, getting people off the streets. It is one of the most difficult things to finance. There is no federal funding for this. There is very limited public funding for this, âshe said.
An example of an organization funded by Continuum of Care is Catholic Charities, which opened a shelter in the past year, she said. Another is the Sojourner House of Compass Family and Community Services, a domestic violence shelter.
âI help assess what our community needs for services, and help get funding, like our funding through HUD,â she said. She is also working with other organizations who are interested in a project, she said.
Once a year in January, his group conducts a 24-hour census of the homeless in Mahoning County. âIt brings awareness to what people are really going through because we are doing face-to-face interviews,â she said.
âDue to the pandemic (homelessness) is getting worse,â she said. âWe are trying to put in place services and funding to prevent homelessness. We try to keep people in their homes. Right now, they predict that our number of homeless will increase because of the pandemic. People have lost their jobs, they have medical bills that they cannot pay. Across the country we have a housing shortage. Overall, our country has seen a steady increase in the number of homeless people over the past five to six years.
âIt’s going to fill a lot of gaps in some of the services we’ve identified,â Kosta said of the $ 250,000.
âMost of our funding comes from federal and state grants. There are a lot of stipulations and very specific goals for this. We hope we won’t have anyone this winter who has nowhere to go, âKosta said. “We try to keep people who are with private owners where they are.”
Tillis noted, âOur continuum of care is doing a very good, very active job. “
At the Commissioners’ meeting on December 16, Commissioner David Ditzler noted that he had spoken with Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda and learned that Trumbull County was looking to hire a lawyer to guide the commissioners of this county on the rules for using ARP funding. This delayed the use of Trumbull County ARP funds.
“I said, ‘Our attorney does it all,'” Ditzler said of providing legal advice on ARP funding. Ditzler offered to provide Fuda with a list of projects Mahoning County has approved so far to give Trumbull County some ideas.
“Mahoning County should be proud of this,” said Commissioner Carol Rimedio Righetti.
“It’s a summit philosophy,” said Gina DeGenova Zawrotuk, Mahoning County deputy chief prosecutor, who attended the meeting. “Paul Gains has always been very determined to create a full service law firm for this county, and he has done it.”
Ditzer said Mahoning County commissioners have established three focus areas for the use of Mahoning County ARP funds: helping the less fortunate through agencies such as Catholic charities; help small businesses; and âeconomic development opportunities,â including projects through the County Engineer’s Office and the County Sanitary Engineerâs Office.
The commissioners recently transferred $ 4.5 million from its ARP funds to the county general fund, which was allowed under the ARP rules. It allows commissioners to allocate money to “projects like helping townships, villages and towns in Mahoning County,” Ditzler said.