Commentary: Joint Safety Forces Building? Why Not?

By Edward P. Noga

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A longtime local radio personality used to begin his morning talk show by saying, “Let’s run a few things up the flagpole and see if they catch any wind.”

I thought of that morning talk show catchphrase as a proposal recently surfaced about moving the Youngstown Fire Department’s main station and the Youngstown Police Department to city-owned land on Wick Avenue on Youngstown’s north side.

First of all, I applaud the proposal.  It promotes the out-of-the-box thinking that needs to happen in cities and communities like my hometown, which has too often suffered from the “It won’t work” philosophy that other communities left behind years ago.

Second, it might be helpful in discussions about the proposal to remind ourselves that in the early years of communities developing their downtown areas throughout our nation, we had fewer people. Many of them counted on mass transit since the automobile was not as available as it is today. In addition, freeways were nonexistent in days past.

Times change.

So we have the proposal. YFD and YPD on Wick.

Why not?

I have lived downtown for almost four years and bring some wisdom from being a resident 24/7.

I am sure that discussions will happen. And I know that architects and planners will work to provide a doable and practical proposal for the residents of the city.

Why not extend the renovation of one of our major streets that has been greatly enhanced by our local university’s imagination and the presence of a nationally recognized museum and local history institution?

As Wick Avenue has progressed, we have seen the hospital provide a presence and a national restaurant franchise open. Our main library has ramped up its footprint and several historical houses of worship have added to the streetscape.

Why not deal with the fact that modern-day fire and police equipment need constant attention and that requirement could be addressed and more readily met in a combined maintenance facility?

Why not have the possibility of relocating dozens of unused, damaged and other unsightly service vehicles that currently clutter a large portion of the parking area along the western end of Front Street across from the former Vindicator building?

Why not build a more energy-efficient combined facility that could make use of more natural lighting and increased and accessible patron and employee parking?

This would decrease some of the parking congestion and confusion that too often greets visitors to Youngs- town.

Why not have a complex that can express our pride in the women and men who are part of our first-responder team?

There is also the possibility of connecting the new structure with our history by using historical photos as part of the interior foyers, hallways and offices.

Why not provide another sign of progress that will help the city attract private development to the core and neighborhood with easy freeway access?

Why not have the opportunity to provide the very marketable corner of Belmont Avenue and West Federal Street (current site of the fire station) to a developer to continue the downtown renewal?

Why not explore the possibility of repurposing the current police station as a storage area for decades and decades of documents, folder/files and historical items?

The thoughts above are mine and certainly a very small part of myriad thoughts and possibilities that are probably surfacing already in the infant stage of this proposal.

Thankfully, to repeat my opening comment, this proposal has been run up the flagpole and deserves public comment and serious consideration.

I am always encouraged when I see communities build on their natural and people assets as we have seen in Warren, Struthers and Lowellville with river proposals and development. Recently, Sharon, Columbiana and East Liverpool have shown some new energy in rebranding and renovating their communities.

As individual communities look beyond what is current, the Mahoning Valley as a whole benefits from new ideas and new possibilities.

Thank you to all who ask, “Why not?”