Here they go again


There was a lazy, disorganized, and ultimately unsuccessful, effort made last year to replace Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership as the administrative arm of the Trumbull County Land Bank. The idea then was that the TC Engineers could “do the job cheaper.” The motivation wasn’t to save any entity money; it was for the Engineer to get control of the “administrative” fees that come with the demolition grants. It’s very questionable that they could tear down houses less expensively, since TNP has won national recognition for their efficiency, but there was no conversation about the other end of the money funnel. TNP wrote the grant applications that have brought more than $10 million to Trumbull County for residential demolitions. Without winning those grants there would be no administrative fees to fight over. Now it looks like the Engineer and his cronies int the county government are taking another run at the money. The Tribune is on to them, as are a lot of people who follow the effort to fight blight. But this will take constant vigilance. See the Tribune editorial from last Sunday, reprinted below with their permission.

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Motivation questioned for COG proposal

MAY 14, 2017

But questions posed by Trumbull County officials to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine about the formation of a Trumbull County Council of Governments entity, or a COG, focused not only on the legalities of using the collaboration to demolish buildings in various subdivisions, but also on creating “Council of Governments” staff and allocating public funds to operate.

The questions were posed by Prosecutor Dennis Watkins after Trumbull County commissioners and Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith began exploring ways to work with other local townships and municipalities, in what they said was an attempt to fight blight.

Collaboration and regionalized efforts are something that we have long advocated, and if that’s what it’s all about, then we would give our full support.

But the idea of creating a new governmental entity with the ability to create positions, employ workers and allocate funds to operate — perhaps via new taxes or fees assessed in the county — raises serious questions about how this effort will save money. Rather, we fear it might instead create new bureaucracy.

We further question the motivation when the ongoing task of blight removal and demolition of vacant homes in Trumbull County has been being handled successfully and efficiently through the Trumbull County Landbank and its contracted management agency, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership.

The landbank, established largely due to foresight of Trumbull County Treasurer Sam Lamancusa, includes properties that have fallen into serious disrepair and that remain in arrears on property tax payments.

We reported just this week, in fact, that Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, or TNP, demolished its milestone 300th home using grant funding. While most of these demolitions have occurred in the city of Warren, the landbank is pushing into other areas for blight removal, specifically now targeting 10 other areas in the county.

TNP has accomplished these demolition projects at a cost of about $8,000 per property (including cleanup and regrading) — which comes in about $1,000 less than the $9,000 statewide average for similar blight removal projects.

Additionally, it works to save and rehabilitate salvageable properties and has done this successfully with about 200 homes.

While it’s true some homes may fall into disrepair outside the auspices of the Trumbull County Landbank, the number of those properties pales in comparison.

Legal advice sought by Trumbull officials from DeWine’s office also dealt with issues like creating, hiring and maintaining COG employees, as well as questions about the legality of purchasing, leasing and otherwise providing facilities for this would-be entity. These questions raise suspicions about the motivation behind the effort that could lead to new fees or taxes for funding purposes.

The purpose of any collaborative effort should always be to find new efficiencies, after all, not new ways to hire workers and spend money.

We hope the county’s plan to create a COG is an attempt to increase efficiencies in government and not an attempt to grow the power or control of any one department or public official.

We are pleased to see our elected officials have scheduled two public hearings in order to discuss the proposal with their constituents.

We urge strong attendance at this meeting, which will be an important opportunity for residents to ask questions and voice opinions on the possible Council of Governments creation.

The hearings are scheduled for 11 a.m. May 23 and 6:30 p.m. May 24 in the Trumbull County Commissioners hearing room, fifth floor of the county administration building, 160 High St. NW, Warren.

Posted Tuesday, May 16th, 2017 under Blight.

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