YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The city of Youngstown is going to get some help with its demolition program and soon other local communities may be getting help with their own projects.
On Tuesday morning, Youngstown Mayor John McNally signed a new “memorandum of understanding” with Col. James Dignan, commander of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, to allow reservists with the base in Vienna to help with public works efforts.
Their first mission will be to tear down a dozen blighted homes near Taft Elementary on the city’s south side.
“About 85 to 90 percent of those students walk to school on a daily basis. This will help clean up their neighborhoods a little bit,” McNally said.
“Not only do we get the training benefit of getting out there but it also puts my airmen out in their homes in their areas. They are from Youngstown. They are from Warren. They are from Cleveland. Get them out there working, getting folks to see that this is an asset to have an air reserve station out here,” Dignan said.
The demolition work should begin later this week and take about a month to complete. But Youngtown officials said other local projects are in the works for the months to come and that similar agreements could be put together in other local communities.
“We think it is a unique collaboration. It is, as far as we know, the first in the country where a municipality is working with a local armed forces base or station on some quality of life issues,” McNally said.
While the airmen will use city machinery and equipment, the work will be done without labor costs to local taxpayers. Both sides said the hardest part was proving to the federal government that the city had the authority to tear down the homes and no local civilians would be losing their jobs in the process.
“It took a little bit of time to get the lawyers on both sides of the fence to understand what we were trying to do and why it was so important,” McNally said.
For those pushing to keep the Youngstown Air Reserve Station operational, the new agreement could help keep the station off the radar whenever Congress calls together future Base Realignment Commissions.
“It is going to come. It is just a question of when. And we need to be prepared. That base is so important to this area. And we have to keep fighting for it,” State Rep. Sean O’Brien, D-Hubbard, said.