Girard continues effort to acquire railroad property for bike trail

GIRARD — City officials are continuing efforts to acquire additional land at the former Ohio Leatherworks site for a planned bike trail in the northwest section of the city.

City council this week passed a resolution of intent to appropriate a parcel of land with the Youngstown Railway Company for easement rights for ingress and egress and additional rights for a permanent rail crossing already owned by the city.

Mayor James Melfi said there is an ongoing court case for the city to acquire the additional land at the former Ohio Leatherworks site for the trail. He previously said the property being sought would not interfere with railroad operations.

City officials aim to use the former 27.5-acre Ohio Leatherworks property off North State Street, which was acquired in 2013, for bike trails to encourage an active lifestyle and bring more visitors to the city.

For years, the city was in litigation with Ohio Leatherworks, but settled with the owner and acquired the property at no cost. The city is still negotiating with the Ohio Central Railroad, seeking to acquire some of its 42-acre crescent-shaped property along the Mahoning River for a trail to run from North State Street to the Mahoning River. The proposed bike trail is planned to be adjacent to the railroad.

The trail would include picnic areas and walking trails.

In another matter, Fire Chief Ken Bornemiss said at Tuesday’s meeting fire Captain Steve Drake will be doing inspections of vacant downtown commercial buildings starting the week of June 10. He said there will be a written report completed for each building and given to Safety-Service Director Jerry Lambert.

Third Ward Councilwoman Fran Wilson said she wants commercial property owners to bring their properties up to standard.

Council members have been working with the city’s zoning department to crack down on owners of vacant structures who should be registering those properties with the city. The guidelines state anyone who fails to file registration or update the registration for the structure will be subject to a $50 administrative fine per day with a maximum penalty of $1,000.

In other action on Tuesday, council:

• Approved placing a five-year, 3-mill fire renewal levy on the November ballot to raise $330,000 annually for needs of the fire department;

• Approved an agreement with Parella Pannunzio for installation of a “Welcome to Girard” sign by Interstate 80 at a cost of $67,000 with work to be done in 60 days;

• Heard from resident Rich DeSalvo of Shannon Road who asked if the traffic signal by the high school could be turned to a caution light when school is closed for summer. Melfi said they will keep the light as is with red and green so when school does start people will not become accustomed to a yellow caution light;

• Heard from Melfi restrooms at Tod Park have been renovated;

• Heard from Councilwoman-at-Large Lily Martuccio that she was contacted by family of the late Jack Carlson who created three additional paintings to be placed in the city’s downtown for beautification efforts. Past work of Carlson has been placed on sides of buildings and at municipal court;

• Heard from Melfi the resurfacing of the Upper Girard Lake property is near completion. The city is looking to sell the property;

• Will open bids for summer resurfacing of streets and at Tod Park on Thursday.