Friday, April 28, 2006

In the Pittsburgh/Youngstown, Ohio, district, steel companies produced 188,000 net tons for the week ended April 22. That was up from the 184,000 net tons they made the prior week, AISI data shows.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Incredible Shrinking City

Belinda Lanks of published an interesting story last week on the shrinking nature of Youngstown. She ends by pegging Youngstown as a future bedroom community to Cleveland and Pittsburgh, a parting gift to a once-roaring steel town. While thinking of Youngstown as a bedroom community like Parma or Mayfield Heights makes me shudder, the reality is that this is possible. The demise of industry in Youngstown has made it difficult for anything else to step up in its place and lead to a revitalized city. Check out the article at and thanks to ShoutYoungstown for originally posting the link.

WYTV Moves Downtown (Sort of)

According to, WFMJ will now have a little competition with its downtown news broadcasts. WYTV has worked out a partnership with the Bean Counter Cafe on E. Federal Street to begin broadcasting part of its morning program from the cafe. The Bean Counter is currently expanding their facility to include a larger seating area and a full bar.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

“The end goal was never to close Northside, although continued financial losses could give us no other choice.” From the Forum Flash, the employee newsletter for Forum Health employees, April 24, 2006.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Board to vote on fare increase

The Youngstown-based bus service now has about 6,300 daily riders.

YOUNGSTOWN — Faced with a potential $1.5 million deficit, layoffs and service cuts loom for the Western Reserve Transit Authority, and the WRTA board will vote next month on the system's first fare increase since 1999.

Jim Ferraro, WRTA executive director, said the board also may ask voters to approve a sales tax. He said most transit systems in Ohio are funded with a sales tax.

Without more public money, staff and service cuts are imminent, including the possible loss of the increasingly popular night bus service, he said.

The board has scheduled a public hearing at 9 a.m. Friday to gather public input on the proposed fare increases.

The meeting will be in the board room at WRTA's administrative offices, 604 Mahoning Ave. The board also will accept comments in writing from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through May 5.

Under the proposal, student fares will continue to be 75 cents, and the cost of student coupon books will remain the same at $35 for 50 tickets. Zone fares will still be free.

Adult coupon books will increase by $12.50, from $50 to $62.50 for each book of 50 tickets. Other changes in pass fares include a $6 increase in adult passes from $32 to $38, and a $3 increase in passes for elderly and disabled riders from $16 to $19 per month.

Adult fares will increase 25 cents from $1 to $1.25. Fares for the elderly and disabled will increase 10 cents, from 50 cents to 60 cents.

Transfers, currently free, will be 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for elderly and disabled riders. Trolley fares, currently 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for elderly and disabled riders, will be 30 cents and 15 cents, respectively.

Special-services fares, currently $1, will be $2. There will be a new special-services option of a monthly pass for $38.

What's behind this

Ferraro said loss of federal funding and increases in insurance, diesel fuel and natural gas could result in a deficit as much as $1.5 million.

"Sometimes there is a decrease in ridership after a fare increase," Ferraro said. "We don't want to do anything that would drastically affect ridership, but there was no way we could anticipate these fuel prices."

"We never dreamed we'd be looking at $2.12 a gallon when we did the budget," said Tom Nugen, director of transportation. "And $2.12 a gallon doesn't include taxes or insurance."

Nugen said in 2004, WRTA paid an average of $1.07 per gallon for bus fuel. In January 2002, the per-gallon price was 69 cents.

Ferraro said the last load of fuel was $2.12 a gallon. WRTA takes fuel shipments every six days, now at a cost of $20,000 per load, with a $250 surcharge on each delivery.

He said if ridership stays the same, the revenue from the fare increases — about $300,000 at best — still won't be enough to cover operating expenses.

Ferraro said loss of federal funding, the effects of hurricanes Rita and Katrina on shipping, and soaring fuel prices have created a perfect storm of financial disaster just as ridership eclipsed the board's goal of 6,000 daily riders in March.

"It's sad this happens just as we finally reach 6,000 riders," he said. "We average about 6,300 riders on weekdays. Some people might not believe that, but the fare boxes don't lie."

"We're not happy with what we have to do," Ferraro added. "More and more people depend on WRTA to get to and from work."

Ferraro said many buses are at capacity with people standing in the aisles.

Here's an example

"We just had the driver of the Market Street bus call and tell us he couldn't pick up anyone. He was totally full leaving the station," Ferraro said. "He said he had people standing clear up to the fare box. That bus seats 34, so he had to have at least 50 people on that bus.

"We sent another bus out behind him to pick up people until people started getting off and there was room on his bus."

Ferraro said WRTA faces a loss of $800,000 to $900,000 just in funding cuts alone.

He said funding from one federal grant aimed at helping people have transportation to and from work, for example, was just $266,000 this year, and WRTA had to split that with transit authorities in two other communities. Previously the same grant provided WRTA with $750,000; now there's no guarantee of any funding from that grant, he said.

Two levies approved by voters in November 2005 generate about $2 million annually, but the levies were renewals, so they don't generate any new money, Ferraro added.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Snap the Whip!

I have to admit that something here in D.C. recently made me proud of Youngstown. I made a trip to the National Gallery of Art on the Mall to take in the Winslow Homer show they were showing (it closed at the end of February). Homer is one of the eminent American artists and his works capture American life, from the hardships of the Civil War to longshoremen rescuing drowning sailors in the Northeast, in ways that other artists can only attempt. His most famous work perhaps, is Snap the Whip, detailing the game that young kids play in an attempt to send their friends flying across a field. Certainly no show on Homer would be complete without this painting and yet, it wasn't present. I knew why. The Butler wasn't about to give it up! This piece has the good fortune of being a gem in Youngstown, as part of the permanent collection of the Butler Institute of American Art. The Butler's collection is currently at 20,000 pieces of American art, including paintings, statues, and photography. If you haven't been there recently, I recommend checking it out. They are currently exhibiting several shows in The Beecher Center, housed in the south wing of the Butler's Youngstown location. It is the first museum addition dedicated solely to new media and electronic art.

$2M debt passes to Forum in default Oakhill Renaissance closing announced

Friday, April 21, 2006

YOUNGSTOWN — Forum Health officials say the nonprofit owners of Oakhill Renaissance Place have defaulted on a $2 million development loan that the health system is now responsible for.

Forum disclosed that information Thursday, after Southside Community Development Corporation told Oakhill's 25 tenants to prepare for the building's closing "as early as April 30, if necessary."

Forum Health is projecting $60 million in losses for 2006 without what it calls a radical restructuring and $25 million in concessions from its unionized employees.

"This failure on the part of the Southside Community Development Corporation has forced Forum Health to deplete its resources by $1.9 million at a time of tremendous financial challenge for the system," officials said in a prepared statement.

Oakhill Renaissance Place, 345 Oak Hill Ave., is the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center. The volunteer SCDC was formed in 1998 to convert the building into a community hub as part of South Side revitalization.

Tenants of Oakhill

Oakhill's tenants include Youngstown City Health Department, the Mahoning County coroner's office and morgue, Mahoning Valley Hospital for long-term acute care patients, and various educational and social service agencies.

Janet Yaniglos, vice chair of SCDC's board of trustees, said tenants employ more than 200 people and occupy 45 percent of the building.

The board is saddened that its recent efforts to keep Oakhill open have been unsuccessful, Yaniglos said Thursday during a brief press conference.

The relationship between Forum Health and SCDC has been unclear in recent weeks.

A number of city and county officials have said Forum Health had been financially supporting Oakhill, with figures ranging from $80,000 to $100,000 per month.

Reports denied

SCDC director Adrian R. Byrne recently denied those reports, telling a reporter that Forum's financial stake in Oakhill was "discretionary." Byrne said: "They supported us when they felt like it ... They'd help us if something broke."

Atty. Stuart Laven Jr. of Cleveland, who represents SCDC, said Thursday that Forum Health had provided a "substantial amount" of money for Oakhill's operations. Laven was identified as SCDC's spokesman, but he didn't return other phone calls seeking additional comment.

"Forum Health entered the Southside arrangement as a goodwill effort to our community back in September 2001," the health system's statement read. "Having sold the building to our community for $1, we agreed to help subsidize its operations for a period of nine months only and guaranteed a $2 million loan to develop the property. Forum Health has had numerous conversations with their management since the beginning of this year informing them that we would no longer be providing this subsidy."

Created a crisis

SCDC said the loss of what it called third-party financial support created a crisis that led to a decision to close the facility.

Some tenants were surprised to receive eviction notices Wednesday.

"Our little bubble is just kind of deflated," said Jacqueline Burley, director of Protestant Family Services, a faith-based program that supports people in emergency situations by providing food and helping with utility bills.

Protestant Family Services was in the middle of a five-year lease at Oakhill. "I was looking forward to renewing it," Burley said, adding that she would have preferred a 10-year contract. At Oakhill, Protestant Family Services enjoyed access to the building's conference center, storage space, handicap-accessible features and central location with bus service.

"I sure wish someone would come through and pick up the pieces so we can stay here," Burley said. Otherwise, the program will continue in a new location, she added.

Bert Cene, director of Mahoning Columbiana Training Association, said that agency's youth center in Oakhill Renaissance Place will probably move to MCTA's offices at Front and Market streets. Cene said he'd prefer not to house adult and youth employment programs in the same building. The youth center has been in the Oakhill complex since 2004.

Too little notice

The city health department "can't realistically move in two weeks," said Jason Whitehead, chief of staff for Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams.

City health commissioner Neil Altman said he knows of no available space that is set up for medical purposes as is the Oakhill building. It is extremely expensive to retrofit a building for medical use, he said.

"We looked for space for 10 years before this became available. All we had to do to move in was install a piece of security glass for the records department," Altman said.

The health commissioner said he plans to meet with Williams, he hoped today, to see if he has any ideas.

Mahoning Valley Hospital is Oakhill's largest tenant. SCDC said talks are ongoing about keeping the building open on a short-term basis for the hospital's sake. Oakhill's contract for maintenance services ends April 30, however.

Michael Senchak, president of Mahoning Valley Hospital, was unavailable to comment Thursday. Senchak told a reporter Monday that his board is looking at property in Boardman to build a hospital and relocate.

SCDC has been consistent in saying it needed an anchor tenant at Oakhill. Earlier this month, Byrne said tenant leases generated about $1.4 million in annual revenues, but that income didn't offset all expenses.

SCDC saw a potential anchor in Mahoning County. Two years ago, it offered to donate Oakhill to the county and chip in $500,000 for renovations to consolidate county offices, including the Department of Job and Family Services. Two different boards of county commissioners have studied the offer but did not take action.

The county rents space for JFS in McGuffey Plaza for $37,000 per month.

Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said the commissioners were still determining whether the county could afford to maintain the Oakhill property. Roof repairs were estimated at $600,000, he said.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Wiki-fying Youngstown

About six months ago I had the pleasure to stumble across a little known website called Wikipedia. By little known, I mean I was one of the last people in my age bracket to learn about it. Upon browsing the articles on the site, I learned that there was so much the world can know about Youngstown that wasn't published elsewhere in a concise fashion. Therefore, I began to create and edit article relating to Youngstown. In such time I have created articles on The Vindicator, the Youngstown Fire Department, Youngstown Sheet and Tube, Ursuline High School and the best sports team ever to play in Youngstown, the Pride. I have edited the main Youngstown article and countless others. All are works in progress, requiring the skills and knowledge of others to finish. So, if you are ever bored at work and want to spend some time on your editing skills, put them to work on Wikipedia... and maybe just share some of your Youngstown knowledge!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Picture of the Day

A sign leading the way home...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Banquet at the B&O?

It seems the magical B&O Station is back in business. Not so much as a full scale restaurant this time, but rather a banquet hall. Hosting everything from weddings to yoga classes, it really seems like they are branching out. Good for them. I hope this idea sticks. With the right marketing and an early influx of business, it might just work. Word of mouth is the key here. So many people have never been down to see the facilities that they need to really brand the site as a historic location within the city. It will be interesting to see what happens with this one.

Check it out here:

On this date...

In Youngstown History:
April 18, 1956: J.L. Mauthe, president of the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co., reveals that the steel company is analyzing the expenditure of another $15 million to $20 million on expanding and improving its Mahoning Valley plants.

April 18, 1931: Youngstown firemen rescue Miss Margaret Calhoun from her upstairs room at 882 Mahoning Ave., where she was overcome by smoke after fire caused by a gasoline explosion damaged the house.

The Burgh ain't the steel city!

When I'm in need of a thirst quencher, I grab for an icy cold Steel City Beer! Proudly brewed by the Youngstown Brewing Company.

Friday, April 14, 2006

My angel is the centerfold

Not even closely related to Youngstown except that this is the University of Pittsburgh Marching Band playing the incredible J. Geils Band ''Centerfold'' at the Youngstown State Game from September 21, 2005. Our Penguins were marched on to the tune of 41-0.

(Get it? Marching Band. March of the Penguins. I crack myself up!)
A great interview with the late Bishop James Malone on the history of Ursuline High School, what it meant to him, and the city, can be found here, at the YSU Oral History Archives.
I discovered these incredible photos of the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Jeannette blast furnace online.

Photos by Harald Finster, 05/24/1992, StahlArt Industrial Prints

Steel Museum library in trouble?

Partnerships weighed to maintain library
Friday, April 14, 2006
The Steel Museum will remain open, a spokeswoman says.


YOUNGSTOWN — Representatives of the Ohio Historical Society, Youngstown State University and Mahoning Valley Historical Society are discussing partnerships that could lead to the transfer of the archives library from Youngstown Center of Industry and Labor, also know as the Steel Museum.

"We're not close to a decision," said Kathy Hoke, manager of communications and media relations for the Ohio Historical Society. "The right amount of discussion needs to take place."

The final decision rests with the Ohio Historical Society's board of trustees, Hoke noted.

There is "absolutely no substance" to rumors that the Steel Museum will close, Hoke said. "We're committed to continuing to operate the museum for the public benefit."

The museum and archives library are separate divisions of the Ohio Historical Society. Both are housed at 151 W. Wood St., across from St. Columba Cathedral. Annual attendance is estimated at 4,000, Hoke said. One-fourth of visitors use the archives library on the second floor, where admission is free. Exhibits are on the lower floors, and admission fees are charged.

Gist of talks

As for consolidation, "We have had discussions over a period of months," said H. William Lawson, director of Mahoning Valley Historical Society. The gist of those conversations has been, "If they were to pull back on their staffing and close that facility or pare it back drastically, what can we do locally to cooperate to keep services going?"

Ideas range from keeping the Steel Museum's archives library open with help from a "consortium of organizations with similar missions" to distributing the collection to local institutions if the Ohio Historical Society closes the space, Lawson said.

It's the Ohio Historical Society's decision to make, but "They aren't going to do anything that doesn't have local support," Lawson said. "The ultimate goal is to keep the collections in [the Steel Museum] available to the public. We have a large part to play about that."

Lawson doubts that Mahoning Valley Historical Society would be able to absorb all of the Steel Museum's archives. If the library closes, decisions must be made about which pieces of the collection are best suited for particular institutions, he said.

Martha Bishop, research assistant at the Steel Museum's archives library, said the collection contains records from Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana, Harrison, Jefferson and Carroll counties. That's because it's the only branch of the Ohio Historical Society's archives outside the main division in Columbus.

What's in archives

The archives library's holdings are largely related to steel but also concern labor, industrial and local history, Bishop said. Items include oral histories on videotape by steelworkers and their families; various newspapers on microfilm; maps; and Trumbull County land record ledgers that date back to the early 1800s.

Money will be a factor in the Ohio Historical Society's decision. As a nonprofit organization, it still receives 70 percent of its funding from state government. The overall amount has declined in recent years, however, and employee layoffs have occurred.

The society is no worse off than other cultural institutions that want to do more than their budgets will allow, Hoke said.

The archivist who manages the Steel Museum's collection divides his time between Youngstown and Columbus, where the Ohio Historical Center is located. "We have some critical staffing needs in state archives," Hoke said.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Old Welsh Congregational Church

The Old Welsh Congregational Church, located on Elm Street across from St. Columba Cathedral, is the oldest religious building in the downtown area. Built in 1861, the congregation worshipped there for over 100 years. In 1976, the Reverend Andrew Redmond and his congregation of 50 bought the church and renamed it The Messiah Holiness Church of God in Christ. They remained there until a fire in 1997. They were offered space in the St. Columba Cathedral for the congregation to continue its worship. Reverend Redmond looks forward to the day they can return to the old church building.

Some of the church has been restored, but much remains to be done. The siding still needs to be replaced on the outside and the windows need to be replaced.

As one of the oldest religious building in the area still at its original location, this is an important building and needs to be saved. A group of carpentars led by Dave Andello has contributed many hours to putting the church back in good repair. If you are interested in helping out, give Dave a call at 746-0551.

And then there was one...

With yesterday's announcement that Immaculate Conception and St. Mathias schools were closing at the end of this year, it leaves just one Catholic school in the city - St. Christine's on the West Side. It is a sad state when a city of 70,000 can't support more than one Catholic School, but the numbers just aren't there. According to the Vindy, enrollment at Immaculate Conception is at 63. As recently as 1998, there were 164 pupils. In the 1960s, there were more than 700 students. Only ten of the current 63 pupils are Catholic, and only four are from Immaculate Conception parish. Clearly that is not sustainable.

I can remember when as a young lad in the early 1990's at St. Rose in Girard, that St. Edward's (North Side), St. Dominic's (South Side), St. Anthony's (North Side), St. Brendan's (West Side), and St. Patrick's (South Side) could all field a team or two for the Parish Basketball League. Now all are closed and the only parochials in the area are St. Christine in Youngstown, Holy Family in Poland, St. Nicholas in Struthers, St. Joseph in Campbell and St. Luke and St. Charles, both in Boardman.

North Side Pool

If you haven't travelled Belmont Avenue and Tod Lane recently, you may not know that North Side Pool as you may have known it is just a memory. The city recently contracted to have the old pool removed, and they are promising that the new pool will be up and operating this summer. I have to admit, they are moving along at a pretty good clip. The bath house, which has always had a flat roof, now has a new peaked roof--almost.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Youngstown Pride wants you!

I am currently looking for new members who would be interested in posting articles relating to the history and current redevelopment of Youngstown. If you think you have what it takes, let me know (post a comment to this post). I am always looking for great photos, new or historic, and articles from the media or self-written. I hope to get more regular with the posting and can't do it alone!

Also, if you like to write about local politics, I want writers for The Daily Traficant, my not-so-daily site about politics and Jim Traficant. It is a mish-mash of stuff, but if someone wants to streamline it, let me know!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Shout Youngstown

Another Youngstown blog has struck my fancy. First was the blog Mighty Mahoning by my dear friend Manning, and now a blog called Shout Youngstown. Who would have thought that he/she could make Youngstown sound as cultured? Good stuff on how to redevelop the city. Shout Youngstown