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City of Youngstown questions reliability of downtown's heat supplier

City officials say Youngstown State and other buildings downtown have had problems with Youngstown Thermal

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) - Youngstown Thermal has been supplying steam heat to the downtown area for 120 years, but now its reliability is in question.

The company's CEO, Carl Avers, stood before Youngstown City Council Monday evening, his contract with the city in jeopardy.

Avers explained to council's Building and Grounds Committee how, over the next several years, $250 million - some government money and some private - will be spent to upgrade his plant.

"The steam price that we currently charge to our customers will go down as a result of this," he said.

Finance Director Dave Bozanich asked pointed, direct questions pertaining to the reliability and viability of Youngstown Thermal.

He started with the company's 2013 bankruptcy filing.

"You were telling the court you felt the company had no value, but what's giving it all the value at this time?"

Avers said the bankruptcy was filed in response to a $55 million lawsuit.

"I took bankruptcy to discharge that frivolous lawsuit."

Then came the issue of Youngstown State, which dropped Youngstown Thermal this summer.

Bozanich says YSU officials told him Youngstown Thermal had reliability issues. Avers said that it was a problem with the university's piping, not his company.

Bozanich then questioned a government project to build a new turbine at Youngstown Thermal. He asked Avers if he has a legally binding commitment to fund.

"We have agreements between us that say it's going to be installed on our site. It's designed for our site," Avers responded.

The city government is not alone in being concerned with Youngstown Thermal's reliability.

"We've heard it from Youngstown State, we've heard it from Home Savings, we've heard it from the Vindicator in their buildings," said Mayor John McNally.

At its next meeting on November 16, city council will consider hiring Brewer-Garrett, of Middleburg Heights, to redo all of its power systems, including heating, air conditioning and electric.

Youngstown Thermal should know the city's decision in a week.

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