“Is Sharon going to make it?”

Posed near the end of a two-hour meeting city leaders held Tuesday night at the Business Institute of Pennsylvania with residents of Sharon’s northeast neighborhood, the question summed up the reason about 75 people came to the meeting.

The answer, given by city council President Fred Hoffman, was, “I think we are going to make it.”

The city is faced with a mounting financial crisis, continued loss of its manufacturing base and the flight of its population to surrounding areas. Parts of the city “look like a junkyard” one man said. Others aren’t even looked at by outsiders who want to move to the area because of negative conceptions some people have of Sharon, which bills itself on welcome signs as “the friendly city.”

These people say that Sharon has high property taxes and bad schools.

This isn’t the case, those who came to the meeting were told.

When leaders received a copy of the Early Intervention Study that was prepared because the city is on the brink of entering the state Act 47 program that helps municipalities avoid bankruptcy, Hoffman said leaders could have given up.

“We could have surrendered, but we’re not willing to surrender yet,” he said.

The city is looking at ways to deal with paying for $30 million in state-mandated improvements to its sewage plant and a home-rule study commission is looking at options the city can take to change its government and the way it taxes residents.

“It’s not one thing that can turn Sharon around, it’s a bunch of things,” Mayor Bob Lucas said.

In order to improve the way the city looks, residents need to get involved, Councilwoman Jennifer Barborak said.

Some businesses have expressed and interest in locating here, Lucas said.

He said there’s a “98 percent” chance a grocery store and video store will be locating here and there’s been some interest in a call center coming to the city. Vacant buildings are being marketed and some have been sold, he said.

But “it’s not just business,” Lucas said.

“The key is how many people live in Sharon,” he said.

The city doesn’t get wage taxes from non-residents and encouraging people who live in Sharon to stay there and getting others to move to the city would help the financial situation, he said.

And other problems continue to plague the city, including the future of the Shenango Valley Community Library, which got $258,000 from the city this year. In 2007, Lucas said the city is looking at slashing the contribution to $100,000.

There’s also problems that will be created when the State Street bridge is replaced next year, Lucas said. And in 2008, it will be even worse when the bridges that lead the Shenango Valley Freeway into Ohio are slated to be replaced.

That project is “going to be horrendous” for the city, Lucas said.

There are also “some bright things on the horizon” for the city, he said.

The Vocal Group Hall of Fame is moving into the former Phoenix Restaurant and plans are in the works to raise enough cash to renovate the Columbia Theater and turn downtown Sharon into a “cultural center,” Lucas said.

“Whether we can pull this off or not I don’t know. But we need people living in town,” he said.

To get there, city leaders need help from residents to “change that perception” that Sharon isn’t the best place to live.

“It’s up to our residents to turn this around,” Lucas said.

Trending Video