Trumbull planners won’t hire new staffer

WARREN — Trumbull County commissioners and the Trumbull County Planning Commission are looking for a way to keep administering two grant programs without hiring someone to fill the now-empty position.

The planning commission has been trying to hire someone to administer the Community Housing and Impact Preservation (CHIP) grant and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HOME grant for the last few months, after the employee who took care of it before was promoted because of a retirement.

The planning commission’s desire to hire someone was met with caution by the county commissioners, who said they are trying to reduce the county’s spending in light of an ever-tightening budget.

The tension spilled out briefly Tuesday at a planning commission meeting before its members, which include the county commissioners, voted to enter executive session to discuss the dilemma.

Members of the planning commission questioned why the county didn’t have a cost analysis prepared for the meeting to show what the county would be saving by condensing the administration of the programs into an existing employees’ duties. The issue was discussed in the planning commission’s July and August meetings.

The HOME grant is complicated, difficult to administer and must be coordinated with Warren because the county and city share the funds, said Cheryl Wood, the planning commission’s former administrator of the program. If the program were to be moved, it could make it harder for home owners to tap into all of the available funds for projects, Wood said.

Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said the county does not want to jeopardize the HOME grant, which helps low-income families improve the home they live in, but the if the job can be done under the commissioners or the planning commission without hiring someone, that would be best.

After meeting for more than an hour in executive session, the planning commission decided to give itself a chance to administer the program with its existing staff instead of moving it under the purview of the commissioners.

The matter isn’t completely settled and other avenues are being looked at, Cantalamessa said, but for now the parties are content to see how this plan plays out.

The HOME award for Warren and the county is about $490,000. The CHIP grant is about $250,000 and hasn’t been awarded yet this year.