Friday, January 07, 2005

Youngstown officials discuss grant dilemma

Published: Thu, Jan 6, 2005
The finance director wants to see if HUD will loosen its restrictions.

YOUNGSTOWN — City Finance Director David Bozanich said he will know Friday what kind of financial shape the city is in and whether it can hire cops to work exclusively at low-income housing projects.

As it stands, nearly $160,000 of the $200,000 Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority grant for police protection in 2004 wasn't used and the grant for 2005 may be lost. Police worked YMHA details, primarily at the Westlake Terrace Homes, in 2004 on an overtime basis, which was determined in late November to be in error.

In years past, YMHA grants, which come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, were used for a YMHA pat-rol, a handful of city officers who worked only on YMHA properties. The grant pays for "extraordinary," not routine police service.

Bozanich met Wednesday with Councilman Richard Atkinson, D-3rd, and Police Chief Robert E. Bush Jr. in a city council conference room to discuss the YMHA grant dilemma.

Atkinson expressed concern about the remainder of the 2004 grant and the entire $200,000 grant for 2005 being lost and questioned why the money can't be spent. He said millions in construction is going into the Westlake area on Martin Luther King Boulevard and surrounding streets.

"I'm concerned about having good protection there," he said at Wednesday's meeting. Westlake is in Atkinson's ward.

"Obviously, the way to do it is to hire officers," Bush said at the meeting.
Bush explained to Bozanich and Atkinson that the $41,000 expended does not have to be repaid to HUD but he can no longer assign officers to work the YMHA grant unless they are the same officers and they work at least 20 hours a week on YMHA properties. He said he can't do that without hiring new officers, he just doesn't have the staff.

The chief also told them that the 2004 grant, which expired in December, has been extended until June. He has until then to spend the remaining $159,000 — by assigning the same officers to the YMHA beat — or the money goes back to HUD.

Bush said the 2005 YMHA grant, which should have been in effect this month, is being held back until June, when the YMHA situation will be reviewed.

'Final numbers'
Bozanich said he'll have all the city's "final numbers" by Friday. Atkinson, Bush and Bozanich agreed to meet again then to discuss the possibility of hiring cops to work a YMHA detail.

Bozanich, however, told Bush and Atkinson that he wants to explore the idea of persuading HUD to ease its restrictions, to allow the grant money to be spent for police overtime. The finance director suggested U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, D-17th, might be enlisted to explore the idea.

Bush said he discussed the idea of a waiver of the HUD restrictions with Eugenia Atkinson, YMHA director. He said she will check out the possibility. She is the councilman's wife.

© 2005 A service of The Vindicator.

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