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Trumbull hires attorney to review dam funding

WARREN — Trumbull County Commissioners voted to hire attorney Thomas Wilson to represent them in the discussion about providing $30,000 to Warren Township to have a study done on the impact of the removal of the Leavittsburg Dam.

Earlier this year, Warren Township trustees described needing approximately $40,000 to have a study done by DLZ Engineering Firm to determine the environmental impact of the removal of the Leavittsburg dam in the township and in Trumbull county.

Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith promised to provide $10,000 for the study. Trumbull commissioners are seeking clarification whether they can provide the remaining $30,000 for the study.

The Trumbull Metroparks Board has been preparing to have the dam removed for more than a year. It’s part of a series of dam extractions along the Mahoning River led by the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.

Attorney Bill Danso on Wednesday told commissioners the Trumbull County prosecutor’s office explaining there would be a conflict of interest because the office represents the Metroparks board and Warren Township, as well as the commissioners.

Randy Fabrizio, chairman of the Trumbull Metroparks Board, said a proposed March 21 meeting involving the commissioners, Warren Township trustees and township residents to discuss the contentious issues separating them cannot happen because of the hiring of an outside attorney.

“They are threatening legal action,” Fabrizio said. “We contacted our attorney and was told no meeting can take place.”

Commissioner Denny Malloy last week suggested the commissioners lead a meeting involving the three organizations to take place on March 21. During Wednesday’s meeting, the commissioners discussed delaying the meeting until after the Metroparks Board’s Mach 28 meeting.

Malloy emphasized the commissioners have not hired an attorney to pursue a legal action against the Metroparks Board, so there is no reason the various sides could not meet.

“We are hiring an attorney only to make sure we can provide the $30,000 being requested by Warren Township to pay for the study,” Malloy said. “If there is a threat of legal action it is on them.”

Malloy described there being some discussion about reallocating the Metroparks budget, but that only is one tool the commissioners could use to get the Metroparks Board to be responsive to the concerns of township officials, residents and to the commissioners.

“That is something that would be considered only as a last resort,” Malloy said.

The commissioner said the MetroParks board is not listening to differing views.

“The park board we have now is not receptive to the citizens of Trumbull county,” he said. “They are not in tune with what is going on in Warren Township or to its citizens. They have a deaf ear and they already have minds set on what they want to do.”

Fabrizio argued the Metroparks board is willing to listen to other perspectives and is willing to respond to the science.

However, he added, it will continue to make progress on the work that is currently being done.

The Metroparks Commission has been approved to receive $3 million for the dismantling of the dam.

“The commissioners have not appropriated the $30,000 for the study being proposed by Warren Township,” he said. “We don’t know if it will be done.”

Fabrizio would not guarantee how the MetroParks board will respond to whatever an alternative conclusion is proposed from the study once completed.

“What if the study concludes an additional $6 million needs to be spent?” he said. “Are the commissioners going to provide the $6 million?”

During the commissioiner’s meeting, Malloy read a Feb. 26 letter from Probate Judge James Fredericka that sought to clarify the fact the probate court does not run the Metroparks board.

“The probate judge’s statutory duties … (are) limited to the appointment of the Park Commissioners and the removal of Park Commissioners for cause upon the filing of a complaint,” he wrote. “The probate judge has no involvement in the day-to-day operations of the MetroParks or their board’s decisions.

“The present Park Board is composed of an engineer, a water specialist, an attorney and two involved community members,” the letter continued.

Frenchko on Wednesday responded that Fredericka has basically reappointed board members and, when a new board member was selected, did not take the opportunity to interview the candidate and discover their viewpoints on asking for tax increases that have been routinely rejected by voters.

She argued the person selected by Fredericka to serve on the board shows his perspective on what he believes the direction of the MetroParks should take, including the raising of taxes.

Malloy emphasized that none of the Trumbull commissioners have insights on how Fredericka chooses people to serve on the MetroParks board.

“How do we know,” Cantalamessa said. “We are making assumptions on his selection process.”

Warren Township resident Debbie Roth said they intend to file an official complaint to the probate court against members of the Metroparks board because they have not been responsive to the concerns of Warren Township residents and elected officials.

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