Without the $80,000, two planners would be laid off.
WARREN -- Two Trumbull County departments are working together to preserve planning functions crucial to water and sewer projects.
Sanitary Engineer Gary Newbrough has committed to providing up to $80,000 this year to the county Planning Commission, which has a budget shortfall.
"He is going to pay us for professional services related to water and sewer facilities that his office is constructing," explained Alan Knapp, planning commission director. "It's a cooperative effort between the two offices."
Right now Knapp's staff is providing such services for four sewer projects and one waterline; a priority list of unsewered areas in the county has been established that could keep plans coming for five years or so, if funding is available, he added.
The sanitary engineer needs the grants obtained by the planning commission to leverage other sources of funding so that these water and sewer projects are feasible and affordable to people. The county can often help low-income people with costs related to tying into a sewer system, for example.
Without the agreement between the two departments, to be approved by county commissioners today, two planners essential to the environmental review and grant writing processes would have to be laid off.
The agreement states the sanitary engineer requires the county planner's expertise "to acquire local, state and federal funding" -- and that being unable to complete water and sewer projects would be detrimental "to the health and safety of the citizens of Trumbull County."
The Trumbull County Planning Commission had a $603,848 budget last year; this year it was cut to $383,844.
Two staffers involved in mapping and housing matters already have been laid off.
"When the commissioners decided on our budget in 2005, it looked like we would have had to lay off even more staff," Knapp explained. That could have meant four or five furloughs out of a nine-member staff -- "devastating."
The agreement states that it will remain in effect until the planning commission's budget situation improves.
The planning commission staff is doing more grants than planning this year, because grants are where its funding comes from.
In fact, Knapp said the $280,000 in fees the planning commission can claim for grants administration this year is "more than ever," even with a reduced staff.
Knapp has to carefully maintain time sheets documenting the staff hours put in for various grant-funded projects to justify these administrative funds. County planner Julie Green has box after box of plans and documents kept in two offices that illustrate the volume of work involved in planning for water and sewers.