Suspicious Fire Damages Vacant House
The Youngstown Fire Department is investigating a suspicious fire.
Several crews were called around midnight Friday to the 700 block of E. Florida Avenue.
Firefighters were able to contain a fire that broke out at a vacant house there.
Flames damaged the back of the house and a garage.
All 8 proposals for new Youngstown fire station will be tossed
Building a new fire station on the city’s South Side — a process the fire chief calls “so simple” — got complicated when all eight proposals for the job were higher than the estimated cost.
“It’s frustrating because the project” is a “simple two-bay fire station that’s just under 5,000 square feet,” said Fire Chief John J. O’Neill Jr.
Under city law, Youngstown isn’t permitted to award contracts if the proposals exceed the estimate.
The city set aside $780,000 from its general-fund budget to build a new fire station in Ipes Field that would replace the 90-year-old Station No. 9 on the corner of Midlothian Boulevard and Sheridan Road. The current building has structural problems as well as rats, mold and water leaks, O’Neill said.
But when city officials opened eight proposals Friday for the work, they were surprised that the cost ranged from $933,000 to $1,100,200, considerably higher than the $780,000 estimate.
“We’re going back to the drawing board to see if we can eliminate anything” to bring down the cost of building the station, said Charles Shasho, deputy director of the city’s public works department.
But then after a discussion with city officials, Shasho said the fire-station plans already are bare-boned.
“I don’t know what else to cut,” he said. “We’ll only reissue the same specifications [for a new fire station] if city council agrees to increase the” $780,000 amount because the proposals from contractors will be for about the same.
Construction on the new station was supposed to start next month and be done by September, but that will be delayed.
The new station is to be built on an unused gravel area of Ipes Field, a city-owned park.
The money to build a new fire station is coming from a pot of $7.3 million set aside by city council for equipment purchases and capital-improvement projects.
That money comes primarily from $2.9 million the city received from a land lease with V&M Star for the company’s $1.1 billion expansion, $1 million in expected state casino-tax funds this year, and $2.5 million to $3 million the city is saving this year from an employee early-retirement buyout.
The fire station is the second capital-improvement project in about a month to not receive a proposal under the city’s estimated cost.
Two proposals to replace windows at the city-owned 20 Federal Place downtown office building were tossed last month when both exceeded the city’s $300,000 estimated cost. The proposals were for $372,444 and $415,000.
The city is making changes to specifications for the windows in an attempt to receive proposals that don’t exceed the estimated cost.
Bomb threat clears out YCS
Students and teachers were evacuated as a precaution for 30 minutes Monday afternoon from Youngstown Community School and the adjoining Mill Creek Children’s Center preschool on Essex Street after someone wrote a threat on a YCS girls’ restroom toilet stall wall that a bomb would explode in the school at 2:45 p.m.
The school principal, Sister Mary Dunn, called police. The fire alarm sounded, and all students in both buildings evacuated with their teachers at 2:20 p.m. After police searched the buildings and found no bomb, they gave the all-clear signal and allowed students and staff to re-enter the South Side buildings at 2:50 p.m.
The incident was treated as a fire drill, and the children were not told about the bomb threat to avoid panic, said Lydia Hammar, assistant principal at YCS, which enrolls 324 students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
News of the incident already had been posted on Facebook, however, while the students were standing outside the buildings.
The evacuation was near the YCS 3:15 p.m. dismissal time, and parents already were lined up in their vehicles to pick up their children and take them home.
Even though she did not believe the threat was credible, Hammar said: “You’ve got to take them seriously.”
Fire Battalion Chief Terrance Jordon said of bomb threats: “99.9 percent of them are false, but it’s that tenth of 1 percent you’ve got to worry about.”
Three police cars and a fire engine were at the scene.
YCS has 17 regular classrooms, a gymnasium and a music room and offices.
“Whoever did it didn’t want us to find it right away, until some little girl went in there, saw it and came running out scared,” and told school officials about the threat, Hammar said.
1 Injured in South Side Crash
A man was taken to the hospital Saturday night after crashing the SUV he was driving into a pole.
The accident happened around 8 p.m. at the intersection of Oak Hill Avenue and Chicago Avenue on Youngstown’s South Side.
No other vehicles were involved in the crash.
The victim’s condition is not known at this time.
Vacant House Fire Damages Neighboring Home
A vacant house fire on Youngstown’s South Side destroyed the building and damaged a family’s home next door.
Crews were called around 5 p.m. Saturday to the 300 block of Lucius Ave. According to Youngstown Battalion Chief Jimmy Drummond, when firefighters arrived on the scene they discovered a heavily involved fire with flames threatening homes on both sides.
The wind direction saved the house on the left, leaving the house on the right to take the brunt of the flames. Firefighters had to call in extra crews for manpower.
“We were able to stop the fire once it got to that, but it was actually already to that house when we got here,” said Drummond.
The family that lives in the home that was damaged has been staying with the homeowner’s sister Lateia Carver and weren’t in the house when it caught fire.
“There was a problem here with carbon monoxide just about a week ago,” said Carver. “We was all home and my sister came home and said that the house was on fire.”
Drummond said they have gotten conflicting reports of people in the area and plan to pass on the information to the arson investigator.
A neighbor, who did not want to be named, said she saw a large group of teens in the driveway of the house and a few minutes later fire broke out.
“I didn’t see nobody go in, but on my way walking back down, I think I was in the house for three of four minutes and we seen fire,” she said.
The woman said the house had been vacant for several years.
Carver said abandoned structures are a problem for local neighborhoods and she is just thankful her sister and her family are safe.
“Right now, I’m mad. They’re all okay. Thank God for that,” Carver said.
The cause of the fire has not been determined.