YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – There’s a plan in place to redo seven of downtown Youngstown’s major streets but Monday afternoon, city council found out the cost was highly underestimated.
The project includes redesigning, repaving and relandscaping, along with adding new crosswalks, new lights and, eventually, autonomous shuttles.
Fifth Avenue from downtown Youngstown to Stambaugh Stadium will be the first street to be redone. Eventually, Commerce and Federal streets, along with four others, will follow.
The name of the project is Smart2. The initial estimate was $26 million, $10.8 million of which will come from a federal grant. But now, the cost is going up.
“So the funding gap right now is about, they’re anticipating, about $5 million. That may shrink. That would be the maximum,” said Chuck Shasho, director of public works.
So, according to Shasho, that pushes the cost of Smart2 to $31 million.
Shasho said the city will take out a seven-year, $5 million state loan. The Eastgate Regional Council of Governments will pay back the principal while the city will pay the interest — about $75,000 a year, to start.
Councilwoman Anita Davis questioned the value, though.
“There’s no way in the world people in my ward can see the value of $26 million being compacted downtown,” she said.
“This money isn’t available to be used anywhere else. This is an earmark. It can only be used on this project,” Shasho said.
“Why are we $5 million short? Was the design plan incorrect?” said councilwoman Basia Adamczak.
“I think, to be honest with you, I don’t think they asked for enough money. They put together a grant that they felt was fundable, in a fundable range. They felt that $[10.8] million was a good ask, that it was fundable, and they were right,” Shasho said.
“I feel these individuals should have completely understood that there was going to be inflation, especially when this project was not going to be complete in a year,” Adamczak said.
Finance Director Kyle Miasek was also at the meeting. During a discussion on paving city streets, Miasek said the city has no money to be moving around without cutting somewhere else.
So, where will the money to pay the $75,000 in interest come from? No decision on the loan was made on Monday.
It will, however, likely be on the agenda during city council’s regular March 4 meeting.