Gillam Project Gets City Funds Over Law Director’s Objection

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Law Director Martin Hume would like to see guidelines in place that address the issue of relatives of Youngstown officials who seek funds from the city.

Hume cast the sole dissenting vote on the motion before the Youngstown Initiative committee Monday to approve a $39,599 performance grant for Artis’ Tender Love & Care, 2003 McGuffey Road, and to waive participation by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The business, a residential center for adolescent females, is owned by Artis Gillam Sr., husband of 1st Ward Councilwoman Annie Gillam and a former councilman himself.

Councilwoman Gillam, a member of the Initiative committee, absented herself when her husband entered to discuss his application.

An opening is planned in July, Artis Gillam said. The program will target girls ages 10 to 18.

“We’re going to bring them in and show them that they’re loved out here. Most of them have been abused so we’re going to make sure that they understand that life isn’t as bad as they think it is,” he said.

Gillam said his program will offer instruction in areas such as sewing, cooking and “how to maintain themselves in school … life skills, mostly.”

Hume objected to awarding the grant on the basis that while the Ohio Revised Code does not perceive an individual as having an interest in the business of the spouse, he believes it “unseemly to award city money” to the spouse of a city official. He voiced similar concerns when the committee met last month.

“Yes, we should have very high standards,” Hume responded when asked following the meeting whether a policy governing such situations should be in place. “That would be up to the folks that set the policies,” he said.

Both T. Sharon Woodberry, director of community planning and economic development, and Tom DeAngelo, economic development coordinator, said they saw the councilwoman as having no “defined interest” in the project.

The committee had approved a grant for the project two years ago, but had to reconsider when Artis Gillam changed the location from its original site on North Lakeview Avenue, in a former school, to the McGuffey Road location, changing the scope of the project.

Hume was not city law director at that time.

Total cost of the project is $197,997, DeAngelo said. Job creation is projected at 17 full-time positions over three years, he reported.

Finance Director David Bozanich, who chairs the committee, said he understood Hume’s concerns and shared some of them. He also said he understood Woodberry’s reasons for supporting the project. “Some of these areas are very difficult to obtain reinvestment in,” he said.

Asked whether he felt a policy should be in place, Artis Gillam said Hume’s objection is personal.

“We’ve done this before. We’ve done it with other folks,” he said.

Two years ago, the city approved a façade grant for a downtown restaurant owned in part by Chris Sammarone, son of President of Council Charles Sammarone, who at the time was serving as mayor following Jay Williams’ resignation.

The issue is “certainly something that should be discussed among the committee members,” Woodberry acknowledged, although she deferred to the law department as to whether a new policy should be effected. Until that happens, the committee will continue to handle such issues case by case.

“In the case of how this is structured, it worked in the favor of the city because this was a significant project, one that is in an area where there’s not a lot of investment happening,” she said.

At its meeting Monday, the committee also approved one façade grant application and denied another.

The committee voted unanimously for a façade reimbursement grant of up to $20,000 to Sid-Mar Foods Inc., 1481 South Ave. The $52,840-project includes removing flaking paint from the building, and trees and weeds from the property; power washing the building and dock area; point blocking as needed; applying primer and paint; applying trim and roof vents; landscape work including installation of mulch and shrubs; installing or replacing five signs; and replacing one glass-block window.

The project will take 30 days at most once begun but Sid-Mar owner Richard Seidler told the committee he hoped to finish sooner. He planned to get started as soon as the committee approved the application.

“I’m ready to go,” he said.

“We’ve really been trying to target corridors,” a priority of Mayor John McNally, Woodberry said. “So this is an ideal project for us to fund.”

The committee denied the application by Fight Channel LLC, 2930 Market St., for a $6,101.70 reimbursement for $15,254.25 in façade improvements. The project would involve repainting the building, replacing an awning and repairing masonry.

Woodberry recommended denying the request. Menaldi wasn’t “proposing enough of a transformation,” she said to improve the building exterior, which is “highly visible” on the Market Street corridor.

Pictured: This building at 2003 McGuffey Road will open next month as Artis’ Tender Love & Care, a residential treatment center for girls.

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