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Youngstown council hires firm to redistrict city's seven wards

By David Skolnick, Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

May 22--YOUNGSTOWN -- City council voted to hire a Westlake firm to develop plans to redistrict Youngstown's seven wards, but the mayor says the administration won't pay for work he calls unnecessary.

The 5-1 vote at the end of Wednesday's meeting came as a surprise to Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th, the lone no vote, and to Mayor John A. McNally, who says the board of control -- of which he is chairman -- won't vote to pay the fee to Triad Research Group, the company chosen by council.

Triad was among five firms that submitted proposals for the work by a Feb. 28 deadline, and its range of $7,500 to $10,000 for the work was the cheapest.

McNally says the dozen maps provided by Youngstown State University'sCenter for Urban and Regional Studies to city council about nine months ago are acceptable. YSU's center received $3,854 from the city for its work.

"Quite frankly, I don't want to spend any more money or resources than what we already did with YSU on city wards," McNally said.

Drennen said he wasn't included in any discussion about what firm would be hired, and redistricting should have been resolved at least a year ago.

Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th, said most members want a second opinion. If the board of control won't allocate money for Triad, council members will draw new ward lines themselves, she said.

"We know where the people are at," Tarpley said. "I don't want to do it ourselves, but we'll do that if we have no alternative."

The city last redistricted about 30 years ago -- its charter calls for it to be done after every decennial census -- leaving the seven wards with inequitable population ranging from 7,227 to 12,130 residents, according to the 2010 U.S. census.

Council has said it plans to have redistricting done in time for the 2015 election.

Also Wednesday, council heard from four people who spoke against the Ohio Department of Natural Resources issuing a permit to Industrial Waste Control/Ground Tech Inc. and Austin Master Services to handle potentially radioactive materials generated from shale drilling at 240 Sinster Court.

"This is unacceptable," said Susie Beiersdorfer, one of the four. She added that Youngstown is become "a dumping ground" for frack waste, and it's threatening the lives of residents.

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About 25 people, several with signs that read, "Danger Radioactive" pinned to their shirts, were at the council meeting.

McNally said company officials met with the fire chief and the head of the fire department's hazardous materials unit to discuss the new operations. "I'm generally satisfied" it won't be a safety issue, he said.

Also, council approved a $78,827 refund to the Youngstown Community Health Center, which was overcharged for water for the past 22 years. The problem occurred when the city installed a water meter at the Wick Avenue location, and charged it for a 1.5-inch waterline rather than the 1-inch line it has.

After One Health officials figured out it was a problem on the city's end, the water department agreed. The refund is for only six years.

"A contract not in writing has a six-year statute of limitation," said city Law Director Martin Hume.

Also Wednesday, council authorized the board of control to pay $50,000 to HCC Public Risk Claim Service, the city's insurance company, to settle a federal civil-rights lawsuit regarding claims of police misconduct. The settlement was for $70,000, Hume said.

Desiree Johnson of Youngstown sued the city saying police used "excessive and unreasonable force and searched and seized" her 12-year-old son at gunpoint "without probable cause or justification" in 2009. The boy was not charged with any crime. The lawsuit was filed in 2011.

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(c)2014 Vindicator (Youngstown, Ohio)

Visit Vindicator (Youngstown, Ohio) at www.vindy.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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