Finance Committee Advances ARP Spending, Fieldhouse Items

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Members of City Council will consider authorizing nearly $4.5 million in expenditures from the city’s $82.7 million American Rescue Plan allocation when they meet Wednesday.

Additionally, council members will consider an ordnance authorizing the city’s Board of Control to advertise for proposals for development of the long-vacant South Fieldhouse on Erie Street.

Finance committee members moved the items for consideration to the final City Council meeting of the year Wednesday.

Roughly two-thirds of the spending – $3 million – would be for proposals submitted by Mayor Jamael Tito Brown. In September, the mayor proposed allocating $2 million for a new revolving loan fund to assist businesses and $1 million to assist with business façade renovations.

Both programs would be administered by Valley Partners, which administers several programs that offer financial assistance for businesses, 5th Ward Councilwoman Lauren McNally said. Legislation offered in September to establish the revolving loan and façade programs were referred to the council’s community
planning and economic development committee meeting.

“We’re ready to move forward with both of those programs,” McNally, who is chairwoman of City Council’s finance committee, said.

Council members didn’t have any objections to the programs, but some had questions they wanted answered before the items were voted on.

According to draft city documents in September, the loan fund would target for-profit businesses with annual sales of less than $1 million or otherwise meet the U.S. Small Business Administration’s definition of a small business.

The target would be to create one job for every $50,000 lent, and funds could be used for fixed assets or working capital, Teresa Miller, Valley Partners executive director, said in September.

The façade program could provide up to half of the cost of exterior improvements, up to $20,000, according to the draft. The company receiving the fund would enter into a five-year agreement with the city, under which 20% of the grant would be forgiven each year.

McNally, who is preparing to take office as state representative for Ohio’s 59th district, also has sponsored legislation for projects totaling nearly $1.5 million from the $2 million in ARP funds allocated for her ward.

All but $300,000 of the $1.44 million in proposed spending from the allocation was for infrastructure: $700,000 for safety upgrades, drainage improvements and roadway rehabilitation of Industrial Road between Bears Den Road and Meridian Road; $350,000 for public pedestrian safety improvements along Mahoning Avenue from Meridian Road to the Interstate 680 overpass; and $92,000 for rust removal and painting of the U.S. Route 62 bridge over Mill Creek.

The $300,000 allocation would go to the Western Reserve Port Authority to manage and execute projects in the 5th Ward.

The port authority will use the funds to acquire commercial properties along Mahoning Avenue that need demolished or rehabilitated, a “spinoff” of the work the port authority is doing elsewhere on the corridor, McNally said.

City Council recently allocated $200,000 in ARP funds to the port authority for similar work in the 4th Ward from its allocation.

With council members’ approval at Wednesday’s meeting, the city would seek proposals for redevelopment of the South Fieldhouse, which in its 80-plus year history has been used for high school and college basketball, shows and other events, including the regional spelling bee.

Several individuals expressed interest in the property following a pair of open houses that were held in fall 2021, Brown said.

“Some of them talked about not just the Fieldhouse, but they talked about neighborhood development as well,” he added.

The city plans to put out a request for proposals after the holidays with a deadline for responses by the end of January, Charles Shasho, deputy director of public works, said.

As part of the RFQ process, the city will seek financial information to ensure that any prospective developers have the means to execute what they propose, Brown said. There also will be provisions to reclaim the property if the developer does not execute those plans within an acceptable time frame.

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