Council Reverses Course, Approves Grant for Riverfront Proposal

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WARREN, Pa. – A week after Warren City Council voted to turn down a $170,000 DCNR grant as part of its riverfront proposal, they reversed course.

During Monday’s special meeting, the council reviewed the motion for the grant, which failed by a 3-3 vote last week, with Councilman Maurice Cashman absent. On Monday, Cashman cast the deciding ‘yes’ vote, along with Mayor David Wortman, Phil Gilbert, and Jared Villella.

Council members John Wortman, Wendy McCain, and Danielle Flasher voted against the motion.

“We have an opportunity to get funds that the state is holding, this is a one-time deal,” Cashman said. “We can get this done with a 50-50 proposition – 50 by the city and 50 by the state. If we pass that up, we may have to acquire those properties at full value.”

The funding would allow the city to acquire the concrete pad on Liberty St. as well as the parcel along the river behind the HIY Inc. building which are both parts of the riverfront project.

Councilman John Wortman made a motion to table the item until the adoption of the 2023 budget, which failed by a 4-3 vote.

“The boat launch can be built without acquisition of these two properties,” Wortman said. “This is a little bit like buying a sweatshirt and picking out a dorm room for a college you haven’t yet been accepted to yet. For us to take this money and allocate it is highly unprofessional. Let’s do the budget, let’s review this proposal and get back and see if this money is needed for that purpose.”

“We should be taking advantage of this opportunity now,” Cashman said.

The two properties the city would acquire are owned by developer Robert Yoder.

“A vote against the Yoder properties isn’t a vote against the boat launch,” McCain said. “What I would propose is to consider taking the money, buying the properties from Mr. Yoder, and taking it off the money he owes us.”

Department of Public Works Director Mike Holtz, who on Monday was approved as acting City Manager, stressed that the parcels of land in question were important to moving forward with the riverfront project.

“They are complimentary pieces that are important to the project,” he said.

There is already a $500,000 commitment from the county for the riverfront project, as well as $1.5 million in state grant money.

“If you let a piece of property go unwanted, we no longer have control over that,” Cashman said.