MANSFIELD – Members of Mansfield City Council will be faced with an important decision during their first meeting of 2024.
The North End Community Improvement Collaborative (NECIC) is asking City Council to reallocate $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds (ARPA) to help the non-profit organization purchase and remodel former Volunteers of America properties on North Main Street.
Legislation regarding the proposed reallocation was set to be voted upon Tuesday.
However, questions and concerns raised amongst councilmembers led to a motion delaying the vote until Jan. 2, 2024.
Drozda says goal is to address ‘urgent needs’ of the city and community
NECIC Development Officer Melissa Drozda and Finance Manager Mario Davison spoke before council Tuesday and explained their reasoning for seeking the redirection of ARPA funds.
In May 2022, council approved the ARPA expenditure to NECIC as it began fundraising efforts for a new $16 million Community Impact Center at 486 Springmill St.
Even as fundraising efforts continue, it’s unlikely NECIC will be able to meet deadlines required for ARPA usage.
Drozda said the purchase and renovation of 280-290 N. Main St. would allow NECIC to address the community’s urgent needs, while continuing to raise funds for the Community Impact Center.
Furthermore, NECIC recently acquired a $321,000 youth violence prevention grant through the Ohio Commission of Minority Health, focused on ages 6 to 24.
“This (280-290 N. Main St.) will be space to carry out those programs,” Drozda said. “It’s a more immediate project that’s going to let us address the urgent needs in our community.”
Mansfield City Council reveals concerns
An area of concern raised by At-large Councilwoman Stephanie Zader was in regard to the current zoning of the North Main Street buildings, which are both currently zoned industrial.
Similar questions were presented by 2nd Ward Councilwoman Cheryl Meier and At-large Councilman Phil Scott.
Meier asked how NECIC would purchase the two North Main Street buildings if they lacked the $1.5 million in reallocated ARPA funds.
Davison was unable to address Meier’s question Monday and asked if he could provide an answer at a future date.
Vote delayed after third motion
Meier also said she felt council was not given much time to digest the information shared by NECIC and questioned whether they must vote on the bill during Monday’s meeting.
Fourth Ward Councilman Alomar Davenport said there was no legal reason why the issue must be voted on that evening.
He said he believed the decision should occur during Mansfield Mayor Tim Theaker’s final City Council meeting.
A motion to delay the vote, with an added reading on Jan. 2, 2024 and for passage on Jan. 16, failed during caucus. The same motion was made during council, but was not seconded.
Following two failed attempts to push back a decision until the second meeting of January, Davenport presented a motion that delays voting one meeting until Jan. 2.
The motion passed with five in favor, two opposed and one abstention.
Scott, who was amongst those wishing to delay the decision, explained why he was one of the two who voted against Davenport’s motion.
“The planning commission will not have met yet (before Jan. 2),” he said. “So, we’re not going to be any farther ahead, come January 2nd, than we are tonight.”
Zader wants to be sure project will ‘come to fruition’
Zader said the lack of time the incoming administration will have to research and prepare for the proposed legislation is a concern, but doesn’t mean she’s against the project.
“(It’s) not that this isn’t a good thing, but I want to make sure that we’re actually going to be able to see it come to fruition,” she said.
“If it doesn’t, we just lose that (ARPA) money back and there are several things that we could’ve used it for.”