WARREN City makes inroads in budget recovery

The city is being repaid for razing the Regency Hotel.
WARREN -- Though the city is no longer in a state of financial crisis, it's still recovering from budget woes that forced layoffs and massive cuts in 2000.
City Auditor David Griffing said Wednesday that changes to the income tax department and a commitment to maximize collections is bringing in more money.
He added it's hard to tell how the economy and local industries will hold up in uncertain times.
Mayor Hank Angelo said the city finished 1997, 1998 and 1999 in the red, but it stayed within budget in 2000 and 2001.
How this was done: The improvement has a lot to do with the dedication of department heads, officials and council members who have made the necessary spending and saving adjustments, Angelo said.
He thanked citizens for their confidence in the city when they approved a 0.5 percent income tax increase in May to boost police and fire staffing.
He also lauded city employees who took wage freezes during the crunch.
"We've made some major inroads," he said. "We're trying to regain our footing and I think we can do this."
He added that the city should carry enough money over each year to cover a 90-day period. This year the city had only an eight-day carry-over.
The mayor also said changes being made at the city-owned W.D. Packard Music Hall are paying off.
The hall recently secured food service and liquor licenses and is looking to build a box office -- all measures that are helping the hall become financially self-sufficient.
Reimbursement: In other business, Law Director Greg Hicks announced the city has received a $108,000 check from Owners Insurance Co. to repay the city what it spent on razing the Regency Hotel, formerly on U.S. Route 422.
The city deemed the site an emergency and bypassed the formal bidding process to expedite demolition.
A Vienna contractor was recently convicted in federal court for unlawfully acquiring the demolition contract by paying $5,000 to a former building official.
The hotel was ravaged by fire in October 1999 and destroyed by another fire in May 2000.
About $83,000 of the demolition money came from Community Development Block Grants and Griffing said the rest will go back to the general fund.
Hicks said the insurance company put the money in escrow while ownership was being disputed.
He credited law department attorneys Jim Sanders and David Daugherty for doing the work to ensure the city was repaid.

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