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Council discusses WRAP

By Amanda Garrett

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

WRAP supporters will be given more time to answer a councilman's questions.
WARREN -- One city council member called for an independent investigation of the Warren Redevelopment and Planning Corp., while other council members said the agency's services are vital to the city.
Those were some of the comments during a special council meeting Tuesday to discuss the future of WRAP.
The meeting had been called by Council President Robert Marchese to allow Community Development Director Michael Keys and WRAP Executive Director Anthony Iannucci an opportunity to answer 71 questions that Councilman Robert L. Dean Jr., D-at large, had submitted to them.
Dean said most of the questions came from concerned citizens and surrounded the status of economic development in Warren -- especially in the downtown area -- and WRAP's role in revitalization efforts.
Dean also planned to introduce an ordinance Feb. 14 that would reappropriate the 51,250 set aside for WRAP and its economic development assistance to a contingency fund in the Community Development Department. The Feb. 14 meeting was canceled because of a snowstorm.
According to the ordinance, the money would be held in the fund until council members re-evaluate the future of WRAP.
"I put forward this legislation because I wanted to ensure that all of council's questions were answered, and I wanted to safeguard the city's money until we can look more closely at the contract," he said.
WRAP is an independent, nonprofit organization that the city contracts for 60,000 a year to help administer loans, buy properties and negotiate contracts. The city has not renewed WRAP's contract for 2007 because of the lingering questions about the agency, Keys said.
Councilman Gary Fonce, D-at-Large, said he believes an independent investigation would help to vindicate the agency.
He said, speaking to Iannucci and Keys, "If you don't have anything to hide, open your doors and let people see what is really being accomplished."
Keys said he thinks WRAP is doing an excellent job -- at a low cost -- for the city. When Keys became community development director, the city was paying 84,195 to work with an outside firm and WRAP on economic development.
Marchese said he will allow Keys and Iannucci the time to answer the questions in writing and then call another meeting before moving forward on any legislative action.