State commits funds for Federal Street's reopening

Work on the project is expected to begin in mid-August.
& lt;a & gt;By ROGER SMITH & lt;/a & gt;
YOUNGSTOWN -- The state Issue 2 funding flap is just a bad memory now.
The city finally has the last of the funding needed to reopen Federal Street to traffic after months of wrangling over where to get the money.
The state Department of Development has committed $500,000 to the project, Mayor George M. McKelvey announced Wednesday.
The city will borrow money to generate the remaining $446,000 needed to remove the pedestrian plaza and reopen Federal, downtown's main street.
A $2.08 million federal grant is funding the bulk of the project.
The city expects to start work on the project in mid-August. Construction specifications are ready, so the city expects to award contracts in July. The work is expected to be done in mid-2004.
Giving credit
McKelvey credited Julie Michael Smith, the governor's regional representative with the state development office, for securing the money.
The state development office looked at the Federal Street project from an economic development viewpoint once the city was turned down for Issue 2 money, Smith said.
Local support for the project was key to state decision-makers, she said.
There was widespread support for the project beyond city government, from downtown players such as the banks, Youngstown State University, private property owners and their tenants, she said. All explained how restoring traffic to Federal Street would help them economically, Smith said.
"Certainly, that was an important part," she said. "We were able to justify this as an economic development project."
The city will borrow the money because it's important the project start now even if all the cash isn't on hand, he said.
Counting on Issue 2 funds
The city wasn't expecting to go to such lengths to get the money. The city was relying on state Issue 2 funding to generate the local share.
Local officials who distribute such money in Mahoning and Trumbull counties turned down the city, however. The District 6 Public Works Integrating Committee said the project wasn't regionally important enough.
The city argued the board didn't fairly apply its standards. The city threatened to sue the group and appealed to the Ohio Public Works Commission.
The commission's director recently denied the city's appeal. The city dropped its threat of a lawsuit once the state development department funding looked promising.
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