It is clear that in the time since the photo-op to announce a state Anchor Grant almost two years ago in front of what was supposed to be the Allegheny Center for the Arts something went terribly wrong.
The former Roberti Building now has a facade of plywood; the contractor engaged to perform the metamorphosis hasn't been paid; the city is demanding money from a downtown organization that has none; and no one seems to be offering any concrete information on how the mess was made.
The taxpayers of Warren deserve to know what happened. The State Department of Community and Economic Development, which gave the city the $500,000 Anchor Grant to get most of the work done, will want to know what happened.
As far as the DCED is concerned, that process has already started. The agency has requested records of how the money was spent as part of a performance audit normal procedure for state and federal grants.
The audit should be completed in the next several weeks.
But that's not enough for the people of Warren, who have been bystanders to the unraveling of the Liberty Street Anchor Project and have only been able to guess what happened. They deserve more from their city government in the way of openness.
The demand for some accounting from the city should not have been lost on city officials long before it was voiced by officers of Warren Main Street during a City Council meeting on Monday.
Mayor Mark Phillips' chilly reply that he would not be "interrogated" in a public meeting concerning the project does not instill confidence that the city will be open and forthcoming with information. Answering questions from constituents during a meeting doesn't strike us as interrogation, but rather a duty of office.
He insisted that questions be presented to him in writing. Let us offer this piece as one of them.
It didn't have to come to this. The mayor, who served as the president of the board of GRO-Warren for most of the time the ACA project was "underway," could have taken a proactive stance and saved himself an interrogation by telling the story - in detail - many months ago. There has been plenty of time to put together some sort of report, a narrative. That's what the people of Warren deserve.
Instead, unless the mayor has a change of heart, we will have to await the audit and hope that the columns of numbers will reveal what went wrong and who bears the responsibility.