Liverpool hoping cityscape project gets back into focus

EAST LIVERPOOL – The city will again be applying for more than $700,000 in grant monies to help fund a $1 million cityscape project for the Fourth Street area.

City Council on Monday approved an ordinance authorizing Mayor Jim Swoger to apply to the Ohio Department of Transportation for transportation alternatives program funding, with the understanding the city will pledge $30,000 toward the project.

Council had agreed to apply for the funds last April but the grant was denied in August after the proposed project was re-evaluated due to passage of legislation that established different criteria for funding.

At that time, Swoger said he hoped that the project could be re-submitted this year for funding as less of a beautification project and more as a safety-oriented one.

In addition to the city’s $30,000, Kent State University and various private sector donors are expected to provide the remainder of the funding for the project.

The project would include new sidewalks, curbing, lighting and landscaping, as well as repairing the brick surface of Fourth to Washington Street. Previously, it was emphasized the bricks will not be blacktopped over.

According to officials, the project would not only enhance the area around Kent State’s downtown campus but provide a safer environment for the students who have to travel between the main campus building and the Mary Patterson building on Fourth Street, crossing the wide intersection at Broadway, which is expected to be narrowed, possibly with an island installed.

This is the third time council has passed the legislation committing the $30,000, and Swoger said, “I believe the third time’s the charm.”

In other legislative matters Monday, council approved an ordinance creating a new fund and line items for $75,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding.

Of this, $65,000 of the funding will also be used to resurface Fourth Street from Jackson to Monroe streets. The rest will be used for Fair Housing and Administrative costs.

Also approved was an ordinance authorizing payment of $4,166 to Northern Data Systems for the water department.

During administrator reports, police Chief John Lane was asked by Councilman Ray Perorazio about the COPS grant and said he has been advised by Service-Safety Director Ryan Estell money is not available to fill the position with an officer.

“The state is aware we’re down (an officer),” Lane said.

A community that receives a COPS grant receives funding for an officer for three years and then is expected to retain that officer for the fourth year from its own coffers. In cases of financial hardship, communities are sometimes not held to the fourth year commitment.

Although Lane said it was his understanding no other employees can be hired by the city as long as a COPS officer isn’t hired for the fourth year, Swoger said that pertains only to new hires, not replacements.

Perorazio said this issue should have been brought before council, saying, “Now everyone in (the city) is hamstrung (by not being to hire).”

Once advised by Lane the grant expires in June, Perorazio said he “has no problem with it, then.”