City defends summer grass cutting program in Youngstown

High grass cutting in Youngstown, Ohio

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) –  In spite of a heated City Council session Wednesday night,Youngstown officials still believe a new program to tackle high grass in abandoned lots will be approved.

City leaders are looking to team up with the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation to handle all of the vacant lots in the city this spring and summer. In the past, YNDC was one of a dozen or more contractors hired to do the work.

Wednesday night’s discussion of the program and questions about the methods used to determine which lots are cut first quickly degenerated into a loud argument involving race. On Thursday, members of the Board of Control were still confident the idea will move forward even though they voted to defer purchasing equipment for the program.

“There might be a few little bumps in the road as we go, but it is a better way than what we are currently doing and that is why we think at the end of the day the program itself will yield benefit,” Youngstown Finance Director David Bozanich said.

Under the YNDC plans, the agency would hire 15 to 20 young adults through the local Americorps program as well as the Mahoning-Columbiana Training Association to do the work. And whereas the city paid up to $50 for each lot in the past, the work now could be done for a fraction of that.

“And when we run the numbers in terms of how the labor runs through the program, we end up getting about four times what the city is currently doing for about the same cost,” Bozanich said.

City officials hope they can convince Council to accept the idea and approve it sometime next week.

“We are going to bring a lot of resources into the neighborhoods in order to do not only the grass cutting, but also some additional landscaping, cleanup work, some fencing, things of that nature, but it is a matter of providing some additional information to City Council,” Bozanich said.

YNDC Executive Director Ian Beniston said the agency can maintain vacant properties in a systematic fashion.

“And have people employed and gain valuable job experience and just give young people something productive to do in the summer months too,” Beniston said.

Council’s Finance Committee is expected to meet again Tuesday evening.

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