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COG hears reality check, takes small step forward

“It is essential that we do better at the intergovernmental cooperation.”

That was the message that the Warren County Council of Government’s consultant, Alan Kugler, brought to the group Wednesday.

The COG has been going through a strategic planning process as it tries to refocus its efforts.

Kugler said municipal in-fighting in the Erie area over the issue of municipal water service as far back as the 1960s has impacted the growth of the region in the decades since.

If the City of Erie had marketed its water in the 1960s “that would be a very different place than it is today,” he said, explaining that Erie is a good example of how a lack of intergovernmental cooperation impacts a community.

“The Warren community is on the precipice as well,” he said. “It is essential that we do better at the intergovernmental cooperation… so we can have a better vision for the future of this community.

“Without that, (you are) going to continue to slide, reducing populations, the city is going to be in huge trouble unless we can be much better at the intergovernmental stuff here.”

He said the county’s COG is currently “limping along.”

Reviewing the COG’s history, Kugler said there were two primary recommendations when the COG was developed in the mid-1990s — the development of an intergovernmental “meet and discuss” group and a civic based organization to support those discussions, which was originally dubbed the Warren Regional Partnership.

There was initial pushback at the time.

Mead Twp. Supervisor Al Fox, who was there at the beginning of the COG, said there were “different people who thought we were going to regionalize or consolidate our governments.

“Most of us are not into consolidation,” he added. “If we hadn’t done this (form the COG), I think relations would still be quite strained.”

Fox said at the time there was strain between the city and the townships.

“Neither of us wanted to do anything,” he said. “A lot of that is worked out and we’re doing pretty good that way.”

“It was the sewer plant that drove that,” City of Warren Public Works Director Mike Holtz said. “That’s what started the COG initially.”

County Planner Dan Glotz said he’s heard the criticism that the COG has gotten “on the dry side” and “thought ‘We need to do something different here.'”

So the COG brought in some outside help to identify several focus areas, including lobbying elected officials, addressing blight, education on reassessment, that it can focus on.

During Wednesday’s meeting those various committees started to have people assigned.

“This is part of moving the COG forward,” he said.

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