What can ordinary citizens do to improve the communities of our region?
Throughout our communities and neighborhoods, people are offering their time, talents and knowledge to make this a better place to live. The Eastgate Regional Council of Governments' Citizens Advisory Board (CAB), for example, gains knowledge and takes action throughout our region. It meets on the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m., usually at Eastgate's offices in the downtown Youngstown City Centre One building.
This diverse volunteer group reviews projects and funding requests, and stays informed about developments throughout our entire region. Membership is open to anyone from our three counties, willing to regularly attend these meetings and contribute their time to the betterment of our region.
The Eastgate Regional Council of Governments is an association of local governments in Mahoning, Trumbull, and Ashtabula counties. Founded in 1973 as the Eastgate Development and Transportation Agency (EDATA) this organization has been successfully working on regional collaboration for almost four decades.
When I first joined the EDATA citizens' board in 1977, it was divided into three committees, each focusing on a priority.
Comprehensive transportation and economic development planning was a major priority, especially with the demise of the big steel industries in the late 1970s. Human resources and workforce education were the focus of another committee. Coordinating a two-county sewage treatment plan, based upon natural gravity-fed watersheds, was another major task then; and we now have occasional updates to this program with 18 community systems cooperating. We saw some results from our work, but there were not the resources to make everything happen.
Since then, Eastgate has grown to become a leading Metropolitan Planning Organization, respected throughout Ohio and our nation. Its role has expanded beyond its original mission of highway improvements and environmental planning, to include funding communities' projects through the Ohio Public Works Commission and Appalachian Regional Commission. Each year, Eastgate works to bring millions of dollars into our valley for roads, bridges, waterlines, sewers, housing, public transit, recreation, environmental preservation, plus industrial site assessment and clean-up.
This is painstaking, detailed work, involving cooperation from local elected officials, engineers, department heads and private citizens. The Technical Advisory Committee and Citizens Advisory Board review every project, plan, and funding request, before any are adopted by the General Policy Board.
The Environmental Policy Advisory Committee works in depth on matters to keep our communities clean and promote new green technologies and businesses. The Trumbull-Mahoning Green Pact was developed by Eastgate, and was enthusiastically adopted by our cities, villages, townships and counties. Private citizens are welcomed to become informed, and contribute their knowledge to these decisions.
We have had some interesting speakers and presentations at our recent meetings, including:
Tom Angelo, director of the Warren Waste Water Treatment Plant, and Andrew Blocksom, President of Patriot Water, with a discussion about problems with injection well disposal of fracking wastewater from shale gas wells, and processes to treat this contaminated water.
Tom Nugen, director of transportation for the Western Reserve Transit Authority, discussed equipment and service improvements, including new bio-fuel buses, the rehabilitation of their downtown Youngstown station, and new service routes into Trumbull County.
Rose DeLeon, executive director of the Western Reserve Port Authority, discussed her growing role in economic development beyond the airport, including the V&M Star expansion, and redevelopment of old industrial brownfields.
Hunter Morrison, Executive Director of the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium, explained its three-year project coordinating efforts of 12 counties to improve our regional economy by connecting business supply chains and communities.
Pennsylvania Sen. Allen Kukovich, discussed the Power of 32 organization, promoting collaboration in a four-state region.
We also had a tour of the YNG airport with Dan Dickten, Director of Aviation and Kevin Kern, Special Projects Coordinator for the Western Reserve Port Authority. The CAB initiated a resolution in support of the airport's application Appalachian funding to replace an aging, and chronically breaking, waterline to the airport.
Pirko is a Weathersfield resident.