How Youngstown leaders would spend American Rescue Plan funds

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The Friday Summit on the top floor of the DoubleTree hotel in downtown Youngstown invited local businesses, neighborhood groups and the city’s institutional partners to learn how to best use the $ 82.7 million the city is awaiting from the federal rescue plan.

YOUNGSTOWN – With the potential of $ 82.7 million in federal grants, local executives are prioritizing new community projects and revisiting longstanding issues with renewed determination.

The Friday Summit on the top floor of the DoubleTree hotel in downtown Youngstown invited local businesses, neighborhood groups and the city’s institutional partners to learn how to best use the $ 82.7 million the city is awaiting from the federal rescue plan. It was the second of two days of meetings, which included City officials and community partners on Thursday.

“It is important that we consider how we can best spend these funds,” said Kyle Miasek, the city’s chief financial officer, on Friday.

The city also asked residents how they felt the funds should be spent. To take the survey, visit YoungstownOhio.gov/ARPSummit.

The city has received about 150 responses in the two days since the poll started, said Nick Chretien of the Economic Action Group, which gathers all input from local stakeholders. Trends are already emerging in their priorities, including housing, demolition and cleanup in the neighborhood, access to fresh food, green space, policing and investing in public health and water, sanitation and broadband infrastructure.

“We look forward to getting more responses and growing,” he said.

Where the sidewalk ends

Many who responded at the summit wanted the city to take a holistic view of traffic rehabilitation – not just for cars, but also for pedestrians and bus drivers, so that non-drivers could more easily buy groceries or go to work.

“If we are talking about quality of life and want people to come and stay here, we have to deal with things like access to food. We need to look at things like connectivity and not only make sure our roads move cars efficiently, but we also accommodate public transportation and people who walk or bike, ”said Sarah Lowry, director of Healthy Community Partnership .

Looking at recent research by the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, Youngstown’s road network is solid, she said. But when you cross the city limits into neighboring suburbs, they often “disappear”.

“You see it on 224 in Boardman or 422 in Niles – there are people who walk up the hill and make little dirt tracks on the road because they go there so often,” Lowry said.

Public transport officials want new sidewalks to be designed with new bus stops in mind. New federal dollars could also help improve zebra crossings, said Dean Harris, executive director of the Western Reserve Transit Authority.

Youngstown’s new Veteran Affairs clinic on Belmont Avenue, which opened in January, is difficult to walk to – even harder for the disabled or wheelchair users, Harris said.

Near the multi-directional intersection, including Belmont Avenue and Wirt Boulevard, “there is no easy way to cross the street and there are no sidewalks.

“So we have these veterans who go there mostly because they have medical conditions and have a hard time getting off the bus and getting to the facility and back,” Harris said.

Get SMART

Jim Kinnick, executive director of Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, said the city’s SMART2 Network transportation project – that laid the foundation stone in June and was funded in part by an Eastgate-landed $ 11 million US DOT grant – could be a junction bringing new corridor developments to other areas not included in SMART2, such as Phelps Avenue.

The expansion of the city’s new intelligent transportation channel “will certainly help us expand the corridors that feed and leave the city,” said Kinnick.

Bootstraps for companies

Valley Economic Development Partners, who have been “beaten” processing applications for paycheck protection programs from companies in the area seeking pandemic relief, hopes the city will consider setting up a permanent loan fund for small businesses.

“It’s the small ancillary businesses along Main Street that are affected by the pandemic,” said Mario Nero Sr., director of economic development lending at Valley EDP.

Even a “small chunk” of federal funding could create forgivable credit based on job retention or job creation, he said.

“The hardest thing for small businesses to get funding in today’s climate … especially with the pandemic,” Nero said.

Build broadband

Pat Kerrigan, executive director of Oak Hill Collaborative, said that while the U.S. Treasury Department is targeting broadband projects directly – to bridge the digital divide that penalizes residents underserved by affordable high-speed internet options – they are not new internet services -Systems required on site.

Rather, the region’s existing infrastructure will be patched and expanded, he said.

Youngstown is the 43rd worst city in the country for broadband connections. according to a ranking from 2018 of US cities through the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. About a quarter of the 27,783 Youngstown households surveyed by the US Census Bureau said they did not have broadband internet connections, according to the report. About 43 percent of the homes in Youngstown did not have a hardwired connection such as cable, DSL, or fiber optics.

For Kerrigan, the stimulus funds could mean updating certain parts of the city, including Youngstown Municipal Housing Authority real estate that doesn’t appear to be getting high-speed internet access.

“I don’t want to spend $ 30 million to $ 40 million on a new system that is losing money anyway,” he told Mahoning Matters. “I would like to see that we spend it repairing the holes in the dike. … go to the Sharon Line where coverage is poor. “

Pay the piper

The Mill Creek MetroParks stance is, “If our neighbors are fine, we’re fine,” Executive Director Aaron Young told Mahoning Matters after the summit.

While he hopes the city will use federal funding on projects that will benefit both MetroParks and the city, the parking system would prioritize the city’s combined sewer overflows, of which 14 storm and sewage at Mill Creek an average of 73 times a year initiate.

The city has long been under a federal approval decree for the rehabilitation of its sewer system and is now in the midst of a 20-year plan to make $ 160 million improvements, including a Mill Creek sewer that is behind schedule.

“What is the city’s plan to meet the requirements they are required to meet under the Consent Decree?” Young asked Mahoning Matters. “This requirement was long before the [$82.7 million] surfaced. “