YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Wednesday night was the last Youngstown City Council meeting of 2019. Several pressing issues that council members said they wanted to be resolved by the new year were on the agenda.
One topic that has been discussed at length: increasing Youngstown’s sewer rates 4% annually for the next five years.
The ordinance passed by a 6 to 1 vote on Wednesday, with only 5th Ward Councilwoman Lauren McNally voting no. The vote was an admittedly tough decision for council members.
“Anything that affects the residents affects us as well,” said 6th Ward Councilwoman Anita Davis.
Council and city administration members said they had no choice but to raise the rates.
All of this to comply with a federal EPA agreement to make $160 million worth of improvements to the city’s aging sewer system.
“We’ll be getting that loan that we need for our water system at a 1% interest rate, which is more than half of what it was going to be,” Davis said.
That information was first brought to council’s attention Wednesday night. So, Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown wanted them to act on it before their first meeting of the new year.
“We are moving in the right direction. It’s all about building a relationship with the EPA and if they’re willing to offer it to us, I don’t want to leave that on the table when we have it in our hands right now,” Brown said.
The loan is a savings worth $17 million that can be applied to the next phase of the wastewater project.
“We’ve learned if it’s there, handle it. Just do what you have to do and do what’s right for the citizens of Youngstown. That’s not too much to ask,” Davis said.
On another note, about a half dozen people spoke on behalf of Fire Chief Barry Finley before the meeting even got underway.
Many wore red shirts that said, “We Stand with Chief Finley.”
The firefighters’ union gave the chief a vote of no confidence for his leadership.
“I did read this vote of no confidence report and found some things that this union could have done on their own to help the citizens of Youngstown,” said Northside Pool Manager Kevin Tarpley.
“I just want to let him know we respect you, we love you and we’re supporting you,” said resident Najeebah Butler.
“If there’s anybody on the fire department that deserves the position of firefighter, it’s that man right there,” said former Youngstown Fire Chief Hector Colon, who was the one who hired Finley in the first place.
Before the meeting ended, council also voted to reject liquor permits for Fyrst Lounge on Steel Street and Club Amazing on West Hylda uptown.
City leaders said both bars have been trouble spots for the neighborhoods.
As it was their last time on the floor, councilmen T.J. Rogers and Nate Pinkard were also honored for their years of service.
“To the citizens of my ward and Youngstown, I just want to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone,” Rogers said.
“I’m probably going to miss it but I will still be doing some things — volunteering in our community, making our city a better place. Thank you and Merry Christmas,” Pinkard said.