Officials seek to renew sales tax

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Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti

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Mahoning County Commissioner John McNally IV

By Peter H. Milliken

The deadline to put levies on the Nov. 3 ballot is Aug. 20.

YOUNGSTOWN — Mahoning County commissioners have taken the first step toward renewal of the county’s second half-percent sales tax by passing a resolution approving public hearings on the renewal.

In taking their action Thursday, however, they did not announce any specific times, dates or places for such hearings.

The commissioners have until Aug. 20 to place the issue on the Nov. 3 ballot. The renewal must pass this November or next May to ensure uninterrupted collection of the tax, which expires at the end of 2010.

The voters renewed the other half-percent sales tax for a continuous basis in May 2007.

Each of the two half-percent sales taxes raises about $14 million annually for the county’s general fund, which is the county’s main operating fund.

Saying the county can’t operate on less than a 1 percent sales tax, Anthony T. Traficanti, chairman of the commissioners, has said he supports putting the measure on the November ballot as a continuous tax.

Commissioner John A. McNally IV has said he leans toward a continuous tax, but doesn’t want “to jumble” the November ballot with too many levies if social service agencies also are asking for renewals in November.

In another matter, commissioners awarded $1,169,946 worth of road resurfacing projects to Shelly & Sands Co. of Zanesville.

Sam Prosser, Teamster’s Local 377 union president, however, complained at the meeting that the company is denying local Teamsters the work that they should rightfully be doing.

“We just want Teamster work [such as driving trucks] being done by Teamsters,” he said. “When it’s a Teamster job, a Teamster should be doing it, not a laborer.”

“They should be using our local Teamsters from this hall. They’re good workers. They’re good people. They’re trying to raise families,” Traficanti said.

No spokesman for Shelly & Sands commented at the commissioners’ meeting, and company officials could not be reached for comment by telephone.

McNally said he doesn’t believe the commissioners have the authority to specify how many Teamsters the company must hire, but commissioners want to encourage the hiring of as many county residents as possible for these jobs.

The commissioners also heard Diane Matuz of North Lima Road in Poland complain about street and basement flooding with sewage backup in her area after last week’s heavy rain.

“Our sewer system is antiquated,” and dates from the 1940s and ’50s, she said, noting that housing developments continue to be added to the area.

She said she intends to voice her complaints at the 5 p.m. July 21 Poland Township trustees’ meeting.

County Engineer Richard A. Marsico said 4 inches of rain fell in two hours. “The systems were never designed to carry that much rain,” he added.

McNally suggested complaining Poland residents and representatives of the county engineer’s and sanitary engineer’s offices and health department meet with the commissioners in a staff meeting to informally discuss solutions to the problems before July 21.

The commissioners also voted to advertise for bids for a probe of the century-old county courthouse’s exterior facade so they can determine restoration needs, costs and priorities. The bids will be opened July 22.

The commissioners’ next meeting will be at 5 p.m. July 7 at the Damascus Fire Station, 14860 state Route 534.