ELYRIA — Elyria will join the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium, a new regional planning group that requires member cities to contribute $23,000 to planning efforts in a 12-county area.
Whether the city should invest in the group pegged with the responsibility of crafting an economic development growth plan that includes land use, transportation and the preservation of natural resources was discussed at two public meetings. On Tuesday night, eight Council members voted it was worth the investment and gave Mayor Bill Grace the go-ahead to use city workers and money to further the initiative.
“This is a way to make Elyria move forward,” said Councilwoman Donna Mitchell, D-6th Ward. Mitchell was the most vocal opponent to the city joining the consortium but said a week of talking to residents and members of Lorain County helped to change her mind. Mitchell was most concerned that cash-strapped Elyria would not get the most out of its yearly investment.
The consortium is backed by a three-year, $4.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but member municipalities are asked to contribute time and money. Elyria’s share is $23,000 and can be made up of in-kind contributions from the work city employees give to advancing the consortium’s agenda and cash donations.
Prior to Council’s vote, Grace had the proposed legislation altered to read “not to exceed $10,000 in cash” to reflect that the administration would work to have more in-kind work done by employees so less money has to be given. The actual cash taken from city coffers could be less than $5,000 when all of the in-kind work is figured in, he said.
Examples of in-kind work include research, allowing City Hall to be used as a meeting space and allowing city workers to work on related grants and proposals.
Council members Garry Gibbs, R-3rd Ward, Larry Tanner, D-1st Ward, and Mark Craig, I-4th Ward, voted against the city’s membership.
Gibbs said the city would not be pushed ahead of other cities in the 12-county area, and Craig said without guarantees of tangible advantages for Elyria it was not a wise use of city funds.
“We have our obligations of what is expected of us as a member city in writing, yet the promises that something will come back to us are unwritten,” he said. “I’m reluctant to enter into that kind of agreement.”
Grace said while there is no actual documentation, it has been verbally expressed to him that Elyria would do favorably in the planning process over the next three years.