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County senior mealsites, planning department scrapped in 2012 budget plan

Monday Oct. 24, Warren County supervisors debate proposed budget cuts that call for scrapping eight county senior mealsites, virtually shutting down the county planning department and eliminating the county Youth Court -- actions that would eliminate 24 job positions.

Monday Oct. 24, Warren County supervisors debate proposed budget cuts that call for scrapping eight county senior mealsites, virtually shutting down the county planning department and eliminating the county Youth Court -- actions that would eliminate 24 job positions. Photo by Thom Randall.

— “Our planning personnel have brought in tens of millions of dollars over the years for our local communities,” Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe said. “Is the EDC going to apply and administer grants like this?”

County Administrator Paul Dusek replied that the county would be effectively ceasing its efforts to obtain grants for affordable housing, home weatherization and community development, because such grant money was being eliminated by the state. He said the EDC would be seeking money only for business and job development.

Dan Girard said the changeover would be a gamble.

“I have a hard time shifting these duties to an unproven entity, when I havent seen the fruits of their labor and we're 'going after' a department with proven accomplishments.”

Dusek replied that the county had to change with the times.

“There's no question the planning department has been a credit to the county,” he said. “But looking at the changes in economy, we think that the planning department will be dying a slow death.”

Dusek added that there were no guarantees of success.

“You're absolutely right, it's taking a chance, we can't guarantee this will work,” he continued. “But if we don't try to move in a new direction, we'll be destined to be stuck in the past.”

Monroe questioned whether the state grant moneies were indeed drying up. He cited meetings and conversations he's had with county officials across the state.

“This is not the message I'm hearing from officials from around the state -- we're still going to have community development grants.”

County Budget Officer Kevin Geraghty defendended the proposed cuts to county planning.

“A lot of towns already do the planning and grant-writing themselves,” he said. “We felt this was the time to make the change.”

Monroe said the deep cuts to the planning department would stymie the work they've traditionally accomplished on behalf of community-based businesses.

But Geraghty added that thesaid that the EDC would likely bring in new businesses, each providing 10 to 25 jobs.

“Other counties are landing new businesses that are creating new jobs,” he said. “It's not as much a crapshoot as we think it will be.”

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