By RAYMOND L. SMITH
WARREN - Calling the acquisition of Laird Technologies the biggest economic development project in his first term, Mayor Doug Franklin said Wednesday that the 200-plus existing and new jobs will add $12.5 million in payroll to the city.
Franklin emphasized convincing Laird Technologies officials to move to Warren was a result of the careful laying of groundwork by members of his administration, the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, and others.
"Over the past number of years, the city has developed programs and partnerships that were key in securing this company," Franklin said in his annual State of the City address.
"Using community development block grant dollars and partnering with Warren Redevelopment and Planning, a number of properties were purchased throughout the city in strategic locations. Having control of the land allowed the city to make a more attractive offer."
Tribune Chronicle / Raymond L. Smith
Warren Mayor Doug Franklin discusses road projects that will be done in the city over the next five years.
He said he does not expect Laird to be the last company to seriously look at relocating into the area.
"We are working very hard to build on our success and will not rest on what we have already accomplished," Franklin said.
Franklin said that 2012, his administration led efforts to pass bonds to update the city's technology department, accumulated a $200,000-a-year savings in the water department, and a $1 million reduction in the city's pension debts. It had a total reduction of debt of $400,000. Another bond allowed the city to purchase a $500,000 state-of -the-art pumper rescue truck.
Now because of bonds passed in 2013, the city will update older buildings.
"We are making a $7 million investment in our buildings," Franklin said. "The purchase of the new government services building will enable us to move three city department and our health clinic from our worst building.
"And the best part is the debt and maintenance costs are 100 percent covered by rents of the existing tenants," he said. "A win-win for the city and the taxpayers."
In addition, the city will, using state and federal dollars, invest approximately $20 million in its streets from now through 2019.
Franklin emphasized city workers have continued to provide quality service to its residents in spite of the city losing $715,000 in local government funds from the state; all inheritance tax income; about $1 million in Community Block Grant and Home funds; and about $4.9 million from the SAFER safety services grant.
Dan Houston, a city resident, said he was impressed with Franklin's speech, saying it answered all the basic questions he had when he walked into the council chambers.
"The speech was insightful and presented a clear picture of the city," Ezra Alls, a city resident said.
Ruth Dancey, who recently moved back into the city, said although the city has faced adversity in the past, the mayor's speech made her optimistic about the city's future.
Among other points Franklin made:
In mid-2013, the city worked federal and state agencies on a yearlong investigation that led to 200 agents executing a series of stings that netted indictments against 99 people.
"A record amount of narcotics and 132 firearms and assault rifles were taken off the streets," Franklin said.
Although recognizing the importance of collaborating with other law enforcement agencies, Franklin said the work of neighborhood associations helped to reduce street crime in the city.
Franklin credited the demolition of hundreds of houses and commercial buildings to improving the look of the city and the efforts of residents and community groups in supplementing the work of city employees.
Current city workers are maintaining the same amount of roads, water and sewer lines, garbage pickups, and other services with 61 fewer workers than it had in 2004 when it had 483 employees, he said.
"Today, our employees are working more efficiently, through better planning and coordination," he said. "We are taking advantage of every grant and funding opportunity that we can to supplement our basic city operation."
With only 25 employees in the city's operation department, Franklin said the employees have maintained 263 acres of city parks, 20 city buildings and grounds, 218 city vehicles and maintain 184 miles of streets.
With the savings from the electric switch gear project in the city's water department, it has been able to reduce chemical costs at a savings of $112,000 a year and begin a water line replacement project that reduces maintenance and repair costs.
The water pollution control department will begin to replace lines in Star Allotment on the city's west side and an Eastland Avenue project.
Both the city's fire and police departments have been working to educate residents on ways to increase their safety through the Save A Life Smoke Alarm program and the Citizen Police Academy.
Franklin highlighted the work of police Lt. Jeff Cole during his negotiations with the three prisoners who held a Trumbull County jail correction officer hostage for more than eight hours. The hostage was released peacefully.