Youngstown officials reject offer to take over downtown utility company

By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Youngstown Thermal’s receiver wants the city to take over the utility company, but Youngstown officials say they won’t do it.

“There is no interest in the city running it at this time,” said Mayor Jamael Tito Brown. “It’s another responsibility. I don’t want to add another burden to the city of Youngstown. We want to be part of the solution, but taking it over is not going to happen. We’re concerned about this issue, but I can’t see making a long-term obligation for the city. It’s not what we do.”

Reg Martin, Youngstown Thermal’s receiver, asked the city to take over the company at Thursday’s city council public utilities committee meeting.

City council members at the meeting also opposed the proposal.

Youngstown Thermal provides steam and chilled water service for heating purposes to 36 downtown customers, including the city.

The company couldn’t ensure adequate service to its customers and was in danger of insolvency when the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio stepped in more than a year ago. Martin was appointed by the court Aug. 2, 2017, to take over and fix the company’s financial struggles.

Martin said the company’s finances are stabilized and Youngstown Thermal is breaking even, but being a receiver isn’t a permanent solution.

If an outside company takes over Youngstown Thermal, Martin said, it would seek to increase the rates on the 36 customers and he doesn’t want to see that.

Having the city operate the utility would provide stability and more businesses would join the system with the city behind it, Martin said.

“I don’t want to do it at a cost the city can’t afford,” Brown said.

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