WARREN Packard Hall panels team up for funds

Packard trustees expressed concern with a judge's decision to get involved.
WARREN -- Two committees with the same agenda will work together to try to secure state funding for Packard Music Hall.
The topic was part of a steering committee meeting Monday, made up of music hall officials and trustees, along with Dr. David Allen, dean of Kent State University Trumbull Campus.
The committee is charged with making the hall more marketable and financially viable. Seeking funding from the state's capital budget is just one way it plans to do that.
Trust fund overseer: Judge Thomas Swift of Trumbull County Probate Court oversees the release of money from the Packard Band trust fund, established by the Packard family to support the band and provide its home, the music hall.
He's organized a committee of eight people from the community to make recommendations on the appropriate use of trust funds.
The Packard committee expressed concern that Swift's group is getting involved with the request for state funds without apprising the city or Packard officials.
Michael Keys, director of Warren Redevelopment and Planning, said he's afraid the two committees will overlap and send a message to Columbus that Warren is not unified in its effort to get funding.
Keys said he's already talked to people at the state level about getting money. He was instrumental in getting funding for the city's Riverwalk and Robins Theater projects in recent years.
What's happening: Judge Swift has invited his committee and members of the state's Arts and Facilities Commission to tour the music hall Wednesday. Some Packard officials plan to attend.
Keys said he's sure the judge has good intentions but it was out of line that the city or Packard officials were not consulted. "I welcome the help," Trustee John Bentz said. "For me, I guess it's a matter of protocol."
He said he appreciates the judge's involvement and wants the two committees to collaborate.
Trustees said they'll invite Judge Swift to their regular meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday. The judge said later he's willing to collaborate.
The committee's formation and interest in seeing state funding approved will not usurp the Packard committee's duties, he added.
The committee's responsibility is to recommend uses for trust fund money and to support trustees in their quest for state money, not to apply for it. "All I am looking for is some assurance that the trust funds are being used in an appropriate manner that will benefit Packard Band," Judge Swift explained.
Rev. F. Robert Williams, a Packard trustee, said Judge Swift had no authority to form the committee. "I think it's all sour grapes," he said.
Trustee Raymond Bagaglia agreed, saying he doesn't appreciate that the Packard board wasn't consulted before the judge appointed the committee.
& quot;We have some really mixed signals here, & quot; Trustee Linda Metzendorf said.
City funding: City council will soon decide whether to give $80,000 to help operate the hall through the end of the year. It said earlier this year the money would be available if trustees came up with a plan to wean the hall off the city's general fund.
Trustees have outlined short- and long-term needs. Their plans include establishing a nonprofit foundation to help raise money, securing a liquor license and building a box office.
City Auditor Griffing said he expects council will approve the funding request.

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