Sep 22, 2022
REPORTS — Aspirer’s Cassandra Kokoski, the city’s grant-writing consultant, updates council on efforts to identify funding opportunities that could help Steubenville move forward. — Linda Harris
STEUBENVILLE — A City Council member was upset Tuesday because he didn’t see projects he wanted on the list Aspire, Steubenville’s grant-writing consultant, has been seeking grant funding for.
Fourth Ward Councilman Royal Mayo said Tuesday no one asked him what projects he wanted Aspire to focus on, demanding to know where the list they were working with originated and telling council, department heads and even their Aspire consultant that all suggestions should first pass through council.
The Aspire team has been conferring with city administrators and department heads regularly through Zoom, trying to get a handle on what they see as the areas of greatest need. City Manager Jim Mavromatis and 2nd Ward Councilman Tracy McManamon have, until now, been the points of contact for Aspire.
Mayo was unhappy with the list and not being on the e-mail chain, complaining that none of the things he wants done were on the list, the list had only been shared with a select few and suggesting he’d been deliberately excluded from an opportunity others on council had been privy to, though the councilman who was getting the e-mails pointed out he could have gotten on the mailing list the same way he did — by asking.
“If one councilman gets it, I think all should,” Mayo complained. “Don’t know why it just goes to one … that list of projects in recreation, where’d you get that?”
Cassandra Kokoski, Aspire’s regional liaison, said the list was compiled in “talking with different department heads, different meetings we’ve had in the city.”
Based on a review of that list, recreation-themed projects on Aspire’s search for grant opportunities drawing Mayo’s ire were requests to look for funding for Belleview Pool renovations and the marina. Both are in Mayo’s ward.
Aspire also is tracking grant opportunities for wish-list projects like expanding broadband connections, particularly to disadvantaged segments of the community, and “transformational” projects targeting infrastructure, including downtown development, workforce development and health care through the governor’s Appalachian Community Grant Program.
They’re also looking for grant opportunities for:
— Infrastructure: Homelessness, a pressing concern in the downtown area; bike and hiking trails, a project council as a whole has made a priority; and capital improvements in the municipal court room.
— COS Phase II: Lovers Lane Phase III; a Beatty Park feasibility study for the stream; and police headquarters upgrades.
— Wastewater: road reconfiguration and Beatty Park Bridge repairs
— Expanding CDBG efforts: Police staffing, Maintenance and Repair department needs, and the microenterprise assistance program, aimed at helping minority and income eligible residents start or expand their own businesses.
“It’s a living, breathing list, it should continue to grow and things should fall off the list (as they’re deemed not doable),” Kokoski said. “That’s why I’m here tonight. If there’s anything you want to add to the list we can add to it…that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s going to be a grant this month or next month or in six months that will help that project. We have to watch the federal cycle.”
Mayo said he likes Aspire and what they’re doing to help Steubenville, “but I’m kinda taken aback … it seems there’s pathways to you guys I don’t seem to be privy to. There’s a bunch of things I talked about before in this body, since before I got there, that aren’t on that list, now I just think we’re going to do internal soul searching, see what direction we’re going. It needs to be suggestions of this whole body, not just a couple people.”
McManamon took that as a dig at him, telling Mayo and council as a whole, “I’ll address that comment, since it seems to be aimed at me,”
“I asked that man right there,” he said, pointing at Mavromatis. “At any point in time you could have asked to be included. All you’ve got to do is pick up the phone or send an e-mail. That’s all (it takes).”
“We’re still dating, right?” Kokoski had said, trying to defuse the situation. “We’re still getting to know each other, getting to know the community and best practices together. It’s something we can keep in mind, make sure we check-in, sending any updates and anything that needs taken off (the list.)”
Councilwoman at large Kimberly Hahn asked those present if she should “schedule a whole meeting, just to go over more of the priorities we have for these grants,” prompting more demands from Mayo.
“I think all of the priorities should come from this body, every single one of them,” he insisted.
“What I’m saying is, I’ve seen a whole list of things, that’s why I asked her where they come from. We shouldn’t be bickering in front of her, but there’s a whole list of things I’ve been talking about for my ward for years and none of them are on there. So when I see that list, I want to know where they came from and how is it that certain people are privy and others aren’t and what’s going on. We need to discuss with department heads what, in fact, we want based on what citizens are telling us they want, and then we tell them what they should be doing. She’s got a whole list of things she’s working on and I ain’t had one ounce of input on it. It’s kind of irritating to me, (when) I can see other people have.”
“Well, one thing she’s working on is completely in your ward,” an irritated Hahn replied, referencing the application Aspire worked with city officials and Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority to submit for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s CHOICE Neighborhood grant program. “We do need to acknowledge that.”
“That’s a grant we can get, of course you apply for it,” Mayo said. “I’m talking about the priorities where there’s no particular grant that we’re looking for grants for.”
“So, I’m looking for process, what would be the most helpful process,” Hahn said, ignoring his complaint. “Maybe we should have it sooner, before we hear from our department heads for their budget requests for next year?”
“I think we need more transparency among our body, what were actually going to do for the city, then get with our department heads and see what’s feasible to do, not the other way around,” Mayo said.
“That’s what I just asked,” Hahn pointed out. “Is that the way we should do it?”
Kokoski told council, “once we get direction from you, then we can” move forward.
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