City to Consider Applying for Grant Funds for McKelvey Lake

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – City Council will consider whether to apply for grant funds from the U.S. Department of Commerce to redevelop McKelvey Lake for recreational and economic development purposes, as well as for use by the city’s police and fire departments.

The ordinance before Council at this Wednesday’s meeting would authorize the city’s Board of Control to apply for up to $10 million in competitive grant funding.

The funds are being made available to “help communities and regions devise and implement sustainable economic recovery strategies through a variety of projects to respond to damage to outdoor recreation sectors from the coronavirus pandemic and to promote the economic resilience of regions dependent on those industries,” according to the ordinance. 

“We’ve always been in the planning stage of what that place can be used for,” said Dawn Turnage, parks and recreation director.  

In December 2020, an Aqua Ohio subsidiary sold the lake to Western Reserve Land Conservancy, which subsequently transferred the property to the city. 

The deal included the 126-acre lake, surrounding easements and the lake’s dam once needed repairs are completed, Aqua spokesman Jeff LaRue reported.  

“Basically, we are rehabilitating the spillway and bringing it up to modern standards,” he said. In the nearly 100 years since the dam, spillway and lake were built, the expectation for the intensity of rain event the dam should be able to accommodate has increased. 

The funds would be focused on the McKelvey Lake area to repurpose it for recreation and economic development, Turnage said. There also is enough land available that some could be used by the city’s police and fire departments for training. 

The city plans to apply for the entire $10 million available “and see where that takes us, she said. The grant would require the city to provide a 20% match, but that requirement potentially could be filled by providing in-kind services rather than all cash. In addition, the requirement could be adjusted based on population size and economic conditions in the city.  

The lake previously was used to supply Youngstown industrial sites and later as a backup water source for the City of Campbell’s water treatment plant. 

The city is in the early planning stages for the site, Turnage said. The city still doesn’t have complete access to the property because Aqua needs to complete repair work to the dam, which was built in 1926. 

Aqua’s contractor, Great Lakes Construction, is prepared to mobilize in late February or March, when the weather breaks, LaRue said Monday. Completion of the work is expected by winter. 

“We originally thought construction would be complete by last month, but permitting took longer than we thought,” LaRue said. There were unanticipated steps such as the state historic preservation office wanting photo documentation of the lake and dam, and the COVID-19 pandemic “has made everything go more slowly than we would have liked.”

Now Aqua has the necessary permits and, in spite of the delays, agreement with Youngstown remains intact and the company is keeping city officials in the loop as work progresses, he said. 

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