YOUNGSTOWN — The City Council has been pushed back by administration officials in a tense meeting over who controls U.S. bailout spending.
The city council met Wednesday to discuss the continued spending of $10.5 million in ARP funds for parks and recreation projects and questioned why the legal department had not yet drafted legislation for a July 27 meeting where the board wanted to approve this allocation.
It also led administration officials to say the council has been unclear about how it will handle the $14 million in ARP funding — $2 million per ward — that the council has approved to be controlled by its members on April 6.
“Thanks to ARP, we didn’t create seven mini-administrations,” said chief legal officer Jeff Limbian. “The mayor hopes to work in collaboration with you. When you say you want something specific done in your department, the administration will work with you to make it happen.
Councilor Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, said: “Because it’s our story, isn’t it?”
Limbian replied, “Counsellor, I’m not here to talk about history. I’m here to talk about legal process.
Limbian added that the council is “doing the administration’s job” and questioned whether this was appropriate.
One issue is that the board approves spending of $14 million and must be responsible for monitoring those dollars to properly report them to the administration, said chief financial officer Kyle Miasek. Also, if council members want to piggyback on citywide projects in their respective neighborhoods, there’s no guarantee the money can be spent there, trustees said Wednesday.
“We are working to shut down our processes,” Miasek said. “If we are going to follow a pattern and the pattern is established, it will make it easier for us and for you. My concern is that if you start going in different directions with each of your thoughts and processes, it’s going to complicate our work and make our reports. We have to determine which path we are going to take. »
Even though the board approved the $14 million allocation more than three months ago, it has spent nothing.
Councilman Lauren McNally, D-5th Ward, said she expects the administration to come up with clear plans for park improvements and a rehabilitation program for Mahoning Avenue, where much of the $2 million allocation dollars for this neighborhood would be spent, and she is still waiting.
“I need a plan before I can move forward,” McNally said.
McNally said the council sent emails on June 22, 24 and 28 and another Tuesday to Limbian with its proposal to spend $10.5 million in ARP funds for parks projects, and the legal director didn’t. has not responded yet.
McNally said she was frustrated with the blockage and ultimately Nikki Posterli, the mayor’s chief of staff and head of the community planning and economic development department, said the request was “doable” and would be prepared for the council votes at its next meeting on July 27.
The council’s plan includes $5.7 million for ‘significant’ upgrades to 10 city park properties, including Henry Stambaugh Golf Course, Lake McKelvey, Northside Pool, Borts Park, Wick Park and a future park in the 6th district.
It also includes $3.3 million for playground improvements at 11 existing parks and $1.5 million for 10 municipal playground improvements and playground closures in MacDonnell, Oak and Evergreen parks.
Limbian said, “There were some issues with a few pieces of legislation because an analysis of some documents doesn’t contain enough information, and we can’t thoroughly review them without it.”
Regarding the $2 million per ward, Councilman Anita Davis, D-6th Ward, said she wanted $3 million per ward because historically certain areas of the city, including hers on the south side, have been neglected.
“My ward has been like the bastard child of a marriage: left behind, left behind and left behind,” she said. “So if the administration is worried about someone else doing their job, then, damn it, do your job. That’s why it was done: to make sure it’s done fairly.
The proposed $10.5 million allocation for parks would be the second largest for HRA funding, behind only the $14 million granted by council members for their wards.
The third largest allocation is $8 million to demolish at least 500 of the city’s worst vacant homes. To date, only $70,000 for a company to conduct title searches has been authorized.
The city received $82,773,370 from the federal government program a year ago. It has allocated $33,366,053 to date, although most of that money has not been spent.
In addition to $14 million for quarters and $8 million for demolition, other approved expenditures that have not been spent are $3,930,400 to be transferred to the general fund to offset income tax revenues lost revenue in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and $649,912 to reimburse the city’s self-insurance plan for employee medical expenses related to COVID-19.
City will make the transfer and refund later in the year, Miasek said.