Trumbull and Mahoning County Commissioners expressed optimism following a preliminary discussion Wednesday on the collective use of some US bailout funds in a regional strategy.
No commitment has been made. Over the next month or two, commissioners from the two counties are expected to hold meetings with locality representatives from their respective counties to gather feedback before another session is scheduled to pass the feedback on to the larger group.
In addition to representing county commissioners’ offices, representatives from Youngstown, Warren, Howland, Boardman, charities, businesses and planning organizations are participating in the effort to find ways to spend the $ 250 million. collectives coming to the Mahoning Valley over the next two years of the federal COVID-19 relief response.
âThe mission is there, for all of us to come together and work in community. This is the only way to make it work â, said Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti, who attended on behalf of the commissioners.
“I am very confident that this is a step forward, a step towards bringing together Mahoning and Trumbull counties as a group, as a team to bring ideas and create solutions that we both can. to be a part of”, she said.
Trumbull County Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said the commitment to “collaboration” was evident during the meeting.
Participants discussed the types of projects that could benefit the region as a whole, as opposed to a single community, he said.
“We are looking at this from a broader regional perspective”, Cantalamessa said.
Water and sewerage infrastructure is apparently a favorite for the projects that get the most attention, Cantalamessa said.
âWhen trying to attract new businesses or keep existing businesses, having the necessary utilities infrastructure is imperative. Improving and modernizing this infrastructure over a large area or in a key community experiencing increased economic development in a county, such as Lordstown, can help us encourage economic growth â, he said.
A recurring utility problem that discourages business development in the region is the way utility costs are organized, he said. Supplements are accumulated as water flows from the source and is sold to other communities for sale. The same is true when communities send their wastewater to other communities for treatment.
“We could streamline this process for companies interested in the region, to make the utility process more clear and efficient and to learn from the problems we have encountered with LG Chem”, Cantalamessa said, referring to when the county and local communities argued over who would take care of the company’s utilities after pledging to build in Lordstown.
âWhen businesses look at a site they want to develop, they don’t want to see utilities going here and there and being billed here and there; it is dissuasive. We need something with less bureaucracy â, he said.
The Eastgate Regional Council of Governments is planning to conduct a study on the matter. The study is funded so that counties don’t have to pay for it, Cantalamessa said.
The study, in the preliminary stages, will describe and delineate what could be done to streamline this process.
âThe hardest part will be the implementation. We will need buy-in from the communities. Towns and villages that own their public services; they may not think that regionalization and consolidation will benefit them. So we will have to come up with a plan that benefits everyone in one way or another â, he said.
Rimedio-Righetti and Cantalamessa said counties are still awaiting final guidelines on how US bailout funds can also be used. Draft guidelines have been published, but are neither final nor complete.