The state Department of Economic and Community Development has - fairly quickly - signed off on the City of Warren's plan to dip into its general funds to fill a revolving loan fund that should have been filled through a failed downtown project.
The result is that Warren taxpayers will be paying $500,000 to re-establish a fund that was supposed to be seeded with $500,000 from state taxpayers. Thus, Pennsylvania taxpayers are on the hook for at least $1 million. There will be interest and legal fees to pay, making the bottom line even higher. In 20 years (the term of the pay-in), the city will have a revolving loan fund worth $500,000 plus interest with which to fund other economic development projects, though if history is any lesson, that half-million won't be worth as much as a half-million today.
Nevertheless, let's hope the economic development projects of 20 years hence are handled a bit differently than the train wreck that was the Allegheny Center for the Arts building project.
Acting City Manager Mary Ann Nau may be correct that the monthly payments to build the fund will not require any tax increases. However, they still represent the taxes paid by Warren residents, since virtually 100 percent of city revenues not earmarked for special projects come from taxes.
And, although a DCED fiscal monitoring report told us where the money was spent - tossed about hither and yon but little at the ACA building itself -the finger-pointing has continued unabated as to why and how.
The first official comment to come from the agency that was supposed to oversee the project, issued late last week by the former secretary of GRO-Warren, seems to aim blame at the city for dipping into the anchor grant for other projects. Meanwhile, the city is poised to sue GRO-Warren to recoup at least some of the money from the group's insurance company.
GRO-Warren, you may recall, now only exists on paper, since it's executive director quit a year ago this month, and its board of directors resigned about three months later.
Thanks to the DCED's report, we all know a little more about the demise of a state grant and the downtown revitalization project it was supposed to fund, but only a little.
And, given their record of openness up to now, one could be forgiven for the feeling that those involved in the project, from the state on down, are OK with that.