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Warren City Council must delay plan for ARP funds

Warren City Council is expected Wednesday to vote on allocating millions of dollars in federal American Rescue Plan funds to be split evenly among council members for use as each elected official designates for the areas each governs.

We opposed this method of distributing these funds because we believe it is short-sighted and invites spending in ways that likely won’t best benefit the city as a whole.

To make matters worse, council also is considering passing as an emergency this ordinance that would allocate $5 million. That means the issue would be passed following this second public discussion, rather than following at least three public discussions.

What possibly can be gained by limiting discussions and rushing to allocate $5 million for council members to spend as they see fit?

We renew our call for council members to defeat this ordinance. It is proposed by 6th Ward Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold and backed by several other elected officials.

Under the plan, Warren’s 10 council members each would be responsible for allocating $500,000 for spending. The seven ward council members would allocate the funds for use in their respective wards. The three at-large council members would allocate the funds for use anywhere in the city.

We vehemently oppose this ordinance.

Public funds never should be allocated unilaterally — particularly when we are talking about such significant amounts.

These once-in-a-lifetime federal American Rescue Plan funds should be allocated only with a broad focus on improving our city and our region, with plans for bettering our community or providing means for more business growth and economic development.

Dividing these federal funds into smaller pots of money for use as each of Warren’s council members sees fit most certainly would be short-sighted and limit the potential of these funds overall.

During previous discussions last week in Warren, council members Greg Greathouse, D-3rd Ward; Ashley Miner, D-5th Ward; and Gary Steinbeck, D-at Large, expressed concern about allocating the funds by council members in this fashion. Mark Forte, D-4th Ward, also has previously spoke out against the plan.

Good!

No matter what projects are proposed for the ARP grants, the expenditures must be thoroughly vetted and must abide by federal guidelines, along with constituent preferences. These funds must be spent after agreement by council as a whole — not handed to council members to spend as they see fit.

A better approach would be for each council member to submit a “wish list” to be discussed and decided by council as a whole. Certainly, no allocations should be made until that wish list is offered and approved.

In all, Warren has been assigned $28.6 million in ARP funds to be allocated to specific projects by Dec. 31, 2024, and spent by the end of 2026.

This discussion must continue, and all decisions must be delayed. There should be no rush to finalize this ordinance by passing it Wednesday as an emergency.

Before Warren allocates millions, all residents must be assured that officials have a cohesive, broad and long-range plan with a very big vision.

editorial@tribtoday.com

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