GIRARD — City officials say the coronavirus pandemic brought challenges to the city but didn’t stop the completion of millions of dollars worth of projects in 2021.
Mayor James Melfi said many long-awaited projects began or were finished in 2021.
“It was a busy year for the city. I am proud of the projects that were done and the improvements we made,” he said.
Melfi said people must understand city hall is like a business and unless the city is in “sound fiscal shape,” projects and improvements can’t be done.
“You can’t do all of these projects if you are not in a financial situation to do so,” he said.
He said one of the biggest projects completed was the wastewater treatment plant expansion and improvement, which began a few years ago.
“That project is one of the biggest projects in the city of all time. It was a $23 million project that expanded the capacity of the plant. It was an EPA-mandated project and the largest project ever in the city. There will never be a project close to that,” Melfi said.
He said in 2017, the city raised sewer rates to help cover costs, but there has not been a rate increase since.
Another big project was the $800,000 water tank renovation off Underwood Avenue that, because of age, needed work inside and out, Melfi said.
The Wellman Avenue stormwater improvement project, which included the Mahoning Country Club area and East Liberty Street, cost $430,000.
“For decades whenever there was a heavy rain, those areas would be flooded. If we had a heavy downpour, those streets and area would be flooded,” Melfi said.
Melfi said a maintenance program was the replacement of fire hydrants at $250,000. The hydrants were replaced in the water district that includes Girard, Liberty and Weathersfield townships. Girard’s water source is the Meander Reservoir, and it buys water from Youngstown, Niles and McDonald. The city then services all customers in Girard and parts of Liberty and Weathersfield.
Another effort was installation of sidewalks on streets by Girard High School. For the first time they were placed on sections of Gary, Stull and North Highland avenues at $100,000.
Melfi said improvements were done at Upper Girard Lake such as general maintenance, roadway replacement installation and bringing the property up to state code at $90,000.
A culvert was relined in Squaw Creek at $75,000, which Melfi said needed to be done or the street could have collapsed.
“We continued to make improvements at Liberty Park,” he said.
Work included putting in a water well to maintain the soccer fields, additional electrical improvements and installation of cameras. and a sprinkler system at $90,000.
Safety Director Jerry Lambert has said the work improved the park fields, used by many soccer and other sports teams.
He has said a well was installed over the summer.
Melfi said the street department building roof was improved as well as paving work done at $30,000.
A storm and sanitary sewer replacement also was done on Sioux Trail.
Melfi said one project that was seen over Christmas was the new holiday lighting at $30,00.
“People who drive through the city at night can see the holiday lighting. We made improvements to the decorations and lights. All of it is LED lighting,” he said.
He said the city was fortunate to receive a $499,722 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the Ohio Leatherworks property, with the city committing $100,000. The former tannery, closed for decades, has been a longtime nuisance to the city.
“Work has begun cleaning up that site. That project will be completed in 2022,” Melfi said.
He said geologists currently are at the site.
Melfi said road paving work was postponed this year due to the contractors being busy, so in 2022 the city is expected to pave a lot of roads. He said the $450,000 project will be done in the spring with council expected to spend an additional $250,000 for a total expected cost of $700,000.
“We will be out of the gate pretty quickly in 2022 with the Ohio Leatherworks cleanup and all the street paving. We will also continue replacing fire hydrants and work at the parks. At Liberty Park we will make safety improvements to the playground equipment,” Melfi said.
“All in all it was a very good year. Financially the city is in great shape. Our balances are at record highs, and all the funds are finishing in the black considering how earlier in the year we were concerned we may be in the negative. The city is now in sound fiscal shape,” Melfi said.