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Law director takes officials to task

Bob Morehead

Herald Staff Writer

Barberton’s law director is independently elected, making that position answerable only to the voter and law director Lisa Miller asserted that authority at the May 3 committee work session.

At issue was the timing of a vote on the plan to spend  the federal Community Development Block Grant money. Nothing in the workup for the $660,000 is controversial. More money is being allocated for housing renewal, less for demolition and $7,000 is being added for homelessness mitigation, but it is otherwise very similar to last year’s. However, while previous CDBG plans were ratified in June or July, the Planning Department wanted to waive readings and vote at the May 10 council meeting.

“If we’re late in submitting this, we could get dinged for tardiness and we could lose money next year,” planning director Trevor Hunt said.

Hunt said all communities were in the same vote or boat? with this. He blamed COVID for the moved deadline, although for other timelines COVID has affected, like income tax collection, deadlines have been lengthened rather than shortened.

CDBG spending plans have a federally mandated public comment period, the idea being to give the communities input how the money is spent. It runs from April 15 to May 15, which would mean Barberton would be approving the spending plan five days before the period ends.

“No one has given any publications to me that shows any authority that the law has changed,” Miller told council.

She and Hunt admitted they met earlier to discuss the matter and she made it clear that her recommendation had been to hold off until it became clear if anything had changed in the law.

“And I said at the time I would take it to council and let them decide,” Hunt said twice.

“Council doesn’t get to decide if we are compliant with federal law!” Miller countered twice.

Several council members expressed that they didn’t want to “get dinged” for tardiness and lose grant money going forward. Miller warned that Barberton could lose it all going forward if it were found in defiance of the public comment rule.

Council voted to move the plan out of committee and onto the council floor but Miller gave a warning.

“This should not be voted on until we are certain what the law says,” Miller said. “Every year in the past, this has been voted on in June or July.”

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