We know we haven’t been around all year, but that’s not going to stop us from reviewing the year that was in 2020. Yesterday, we told you about Five People Who Made an Impact in 2020.
Today, we take a look at some of the biggest local news stories in 2020.
- Warren City Council Passes a Tax Increase: City Council wrestled with whether it should raise taxes for much of the latter part of the year. In the end, Council voted 4-3 to raise property taxes by one mill and the Earned Income Tax by 0.1 percent. “There’s never a good time to ask the public to pay for what they’re getting,” Councilman Gregory Fraser said. “The public always wants to pay less, but that’s the price of civilization, the price of living in a city, the price of streets that don’t destroy the frame of your vehicle.” Some members disagreed. “I never thought I’d live to see the day in the United States of America, that the government could tell you, you can’t go to work, you can’t employ yourself, but we can take more money from you,” Councilman John Wortman said. “It’s unconscionable.”
- WCSD Moves to Remote Learning: While school districts across the region moved back-and-forth between in-person, remote learning and hybrid instruction models, the Warren County School District was able to maintain in-person learning through Thanksgiving. In the end, it wasn’t COVID spread through the schools, but staffing losses due to close contact quarantine that forced the WCSD to adopt a remote learning model through late January. “We said we’d know when it’s time,” WCSD Superintendent Amy Stewart said. “It is time to take a break. At this point, with the number of employees that we have out, we can’t continue to go further right now.”
- Citizens Protest Proposed Hotel: What to do with the parcel near Breeze Point Park has long been a discussion among city leaders. When a proposed hotel development project was announced, former Warren County Commissioner Pat Evans decided the citizens needed their voices heard as well. More than 25 people gathered at Breeze Point to protest the proposed development project and let city leaders know they didn’t want a hotel at that location. “I’m not opposed to a hotel, I just don’t want it built here,” Evans said. “There’s no compelling reason this property should be used any differently (than it is currently).”
- City of Warren/Pleasant Township EMS Partnership: The City of Warren and Pleasant Township entered into a pilot program earlier this year that put two city EMS personnel at Pleasant three days per week. The program was so successful that City Council opted to expand the staffing to five days per week through the end of the year. “I’m glad that people have started to recognize the problem,” said Warren Fire Department Chief Rodney Wren. “We’ve made the rest of the county take a look at their call numbers. We have brought attention to the problem in the county and people are working on it.”
- CARES Act Money Comes to Warren County: Warren County received $3.5 million in CARES Act funds and worked diligently through the last quarter of the year to get that money to those entities most in need. The Warren County Commissioners tabled the budget in early December to ensure that every dollar was spent. “We want to make it clear that the reason we’re doing this is the money must be expended no later than the end of the month,” said Commissioner Ben Kafferlin. “If there’s money left over, it goes back to the state. “We realize now that in the new year we are going to have COVID-related expenses. Contact tracing is through the roof. We’re having to buy more PPE and such. If we can take this money and reimburse ourselves for eligible tax wages, then we will be able to free up that money for PPE and other necessary things without having to revisit the budget.”