The cleanup effort in the wake of a fiscal monitoring review on a $500,000 anchor building grant intended for the Allegheny Center for the Arts project on Liberty Street took two steps forward during Monday night's meeting of Warren City Council.
In response to concerns raised by the state Department of Community and Economic Development in the review, council enacted an ordinance providing for enhanced grant fund supervision. The review stated that the city was "not monitoring its subcontractors," which, in the event of the anchor building grant, was GRO-Warren.
The resolution outlines six steps that will be taken by city administration to ensure that proper oversight is executed in the future. The resolution calls for grant funds slated for "sub-recipients" to be held in a separate bank account and also lays out a procedure by which those seeking funding will petition the city.
Applicants will be required to complete a form with each disbursement that will outline what the funds will be used for and the city will, in turn, conduct an "internal audit" to ensure that the "reimbursement request is in compliance with the grant requirements," according to the resolution.
If the request fails to abide by grant policy, the city reserves the right to deny the petition.
City Council also dissolved its cooperation agreement with GRO-Warren on Monday.
Originally, the agreement, which is dated Sept. 10, 2009, was primarily designed to form a committee comprised of members of council and GRO-Warren that would serve on the Warren Revitalization Loan Committee, the entity that would govern the revolving loan fund set up when GRO-Warren began to make payments on the $500,000 loan from the city.
"GRO-Warren and the City of Warren agree to support this committee's purpose and find ways to promote cooperation and provide a fair and reasonable use of fund requests," the agreement states. "If a conflict arises, each entity will work in harmony to resolve the conflict and not allow the conflict to become a public issue. Public issues serve no one('s) best interest and diminish the value each entity has in serving the community."
The agreement was designed to "continue in perpetuity unless revised, revoked or if either entity would dissolve as an organization."
Assistant City Manager Mary Ann Nau said during Monday's meeting that "as the anchor building grant has not come to fruition and GRO-Warren no longer has a seated board, it is appropriate to revoke" the agreement. She indicated that the revocation is a pre-requisite for the distribution of any funds from the revolving loan fund that the city will set up next year. "We will need have something in place when DCED comes back for a revisit of our monitoring review," she said.
Revoking the agreement was approved unanimously with Mayor Mark Phillips, former GRO-Warren board president, abstaining "on the advice of the city solicitor."
In announcing to council that the city's response plan to the fiscal monitoring review was approved, a determination made late last month by DCED, Nau said that the city's response "appears to have adequately addressed the concerns outlined in the report." She said DCED has waived the audit requirement that concludes most state contracts, but did note that DCED will conduct another monitoring review after next January "when the pieces of our plan should be in place," including the implementation of the revolving loan program.