JEDD talks focus on regional airport

VIENNA – The township and city of Girard may look to piggyback off the success of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport by negotiating a Joint Economic Development District encompassing the airport.

Vienna Township trustees voted to begin negotiations with the city, and Girard Mayor James Melfi said he believes City Council will reciprocate the opening of discussions at its Monday meeting.

“I made City Council aware at the last council meeting of 2013,” Melfi said. “Obviously, it is something I’m excited about.”

The preliminary area being looked at is bordered by King Graves Road, Youngstown Kingsville Road and Ridge Road, about one mile north of state Route 82.

Melfi said the city will not be able to offer infrastructure improvements to the area – city sewer lines do not yet reach to even the northernmost city limits near the Girard Lakes. Officials hope, though, that having two entities together will make them a better contender for gaining grants, he said.

“If you look at what’s in the area, if the airport benefits, the region benefits,” Melfi said. “We will just see the up front benefits.”

Among the likely up-front benefits would be the city’s ability to collect income tax from the district. The city’s current income tax is 2 percent. Townships are not able to charge income tax, but can share a percentage of what the city is able to impose on a JEDD.

“I think the income tax would be the number one priority for both,” Melfi said.

Current businesses in the district would not be forced to pay the income tax unless they chose to participate or change ownership.

Vienna Trustee Phil Pegg is leading the discussion for the township and said he has been researching local successful JEDDs.

“Surely there are things about the JEDD that are benefits to both parties,” he said. “It’s all positive.”

Pegg said he sees the district as an opportunity to gain funding for the police and fire departments. Currently, the township has only one full-time police officer and just one emergency medical technician squad, which is becoming less and less sufficient to care for the entire township, he said.

Dan Dickten, director of aviation at the airport, said the airport also supports the possible JEDD.

“We want to work with Vienna and provide some sort of tax base from the airport’s success,” he said.

The airport saw a 22 percent increase in the number of passengers from 2012 to 2013, with about 94,000 passengers. Officials are expecting the count to continue to increase in 2014 to 120,000 passengers.

Dickten said the JEDD will more likely affect the the property encompassing the airport since the airport itself is under control of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Areas like the air cargo facility and property that has yet to be developed on the south side of the airport would be prime targets for the JEDD. He said developments at the airport have to be approved by the FAA and those surrounding need to meet concurrent use regulations.

“It’s up to more than just us,” he said.