WARREN Council OKs plan for LaBrae
Forming a JEDD with Warren Township is still an option.
By AMANDA C. DAVIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- City council has given its stamp of approval to a measure that gives LaBrae schools the green light for a nearly $30 million project.
During a contentious meeting Wednesday, lawmakers decided to stray from the city's policy that requires properties to annex if they want city utilities.
The deadline is today for the school district to have everything in place to move forward with the project that includes plans for a school to house grades three through 12 behind Bascom Elementary School.
LaBrae Schools will pay outside water and sewer rates that are double what residents pay. The district also will pay for upgrading to handle the additional load on the systems.
Handling funds: District voters approved a 5.4-mill bond issue to raise the local share of $9 million. The Ohio School Facilities Commission is chipping in about $20 million.
To get the state money, the district has to have utilities in place.
Councilman Gary Fonce, D-at large, voted against the measure, saying it was unfair for the district to give Warren just a few weeks to make such a big decision.
School officials assured him the district has been adhering to a timeline and wasn't trying to keep Warren out of the loop.
Argument began: The discussion escalated into an argument after council took a 10-minute recess so lawmakers, administrators, Warren Township officials and LaBrae Superintendent Ron Joseph could hammer out the issues.
Fonce said the law department can't guarantee the legislation won't weaken the city's stance on annexation in future cases, but Mayor Hank Angelo assured him language in the ordinance was specific to the project.
Fonce suggested the city and township move forward with annexation plans and try to work out a deal for a Joint Economic Development District before the annexation would become final.
Mayor's comments: Mayor Hank Angelo asked council to reach out to Warren Township and show the city can be a good neighbor.
The city can still work toward forming a JEDD with the township, the mayor said, explaining that LTV Steel, WCI Steel and another unnamed company are outside city limits but would benefit from such an arrangement.
Angelo said he is a staunch supporter of annexation but noted the LaBrae project is an exception because of its importance to the community.
Council voted 6-2 on the measure, with Fonce and Councilman Bob Holmes, D-4th, dissenting. Councilman Bob Marchese, D-at large, was absent and Councilwoman Virginia Bufano, D-1st, left the meeting because of illness.
Councilman Brendan Keating, D-5th, said he supports annexation but explained, "The last thing I want to do is send this school project down the drain."
He also noted that the timing of the decision was unfair.
Before council made its decision, a member of a local union covering electrical workers told lawmakers local families are hurting and local building trades really need the work.