Warren City Council passes large budget to support development

WARREN, Ohio (WYTV) – The vote by Warren City Council was 7-3.

The 2017 budget passed, but not before one man in the audience objected to taking $233,000 from the enterprise fund — departments like water and sewer — to support Community Development.

“What puzzles me is that I’ve heard several council members state they don’t exactly know what CD does,” community member Paul Clouser said. “If this is true, I would think it be prudent to ask for an audit and accounting of that department.”

Listening was Community Development Director Mike Keys — whose department needs the city’s financial help — because the federal government has decreased its funding.

Without the $233,000 to pay Community Development’s staff, 26 non-profit agencies in Warren would not have received the $175,000 promised to them.

“If you enter into an agreement, it is your obligation to fulfill that agreement,” councilman Eddie Colbert said.

At the pre-meeting caucus, Colbert — who opposes allocating more money to administer programs than what’s actually given out — was among those who agreed Community Development should not be hastily eliminated.

“That it would be a travesty for the non-profits not to receive the monies.” councilwoman Cheryl Safford said.

Councilman Dan Sferra — who along with Colbert and John Brown voted against the budget — suggested bringing in an outside company to take over Economic Development, saying there’s no one in Warren that’s qualified.

It was also suggested that Community Development be reorganized — and Mayor Doug Franklin agrees.

“We’ve embraced the idea that we need to look at how we can restructure that department,” Franklin said.

After the meeting — his department now funded — Keys said he welcomed a restructuring.

“I think this now gives us an opportunity to present to council what our department already does,” Keys said. “And say here’s what we do, what would you like us to continue doing?”