Warren City Council has rejected an initial proposal to join the Warren County Council of Governments.
The COG has been an informal group for decades but efforts have been underway since last fall to add formal structure to that group.
City Manager Nancy Freenock said the city’s dues as a member – based on population – is $1,475.
But it wasn’t the money that was the real issue – it was a representation issue and the overall worth of the investment.
“I understand the premise,” Councilman Jared Villella, but raised a concern that the new structure gives each municipality just one vote even though the city has over one-fourth of the population and pays 2.5 times more than any other municipality.
Councilman John Wortman said he’s “fully supportive” of joining the COG, said the current agreement presents “great concerns” and proceeded to go on a diatribe invoking lack of colonial representation in Parliament, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution and local school board regional representation issues.
He also expressed concern about language that he argued could result in a newly-elected council not being able to undo an action by the prior board.
“If we were to approve … as presented,” he said, it would be an “extreme disservice to the city of Warren’s residents.”
Councilwoman Wendy McCain asked a series of questions about why formalization is being undertaken as well as questions that got at the COG’s purpose.
Villella asked if the city can ask for changes on the voting rights issue.
Freenock said the question would have to go back to all of the municipalities that have approved the bylaws.
“I would support going back to add more votes for Warren,” McCain added, also asking for more information on the purpose and objectives of the group. “I think it’s a great idea,” she added.
Councilman Phil Gilbert asked how the city has benefited from the current arrangement.
The question was initially met with silence from council as well as city staff.
Freenock noted that the city is the only third-class city in the county.
“A lot of the townships,” she said, “they do work together. Not everyone sends a representative to the meeting.”
“The relationships that are formed are important,” he added. “(I’m) not sure this is the only place those relationships can be formed.
Villella then made a motion to go back to the COG on the voting and funding questions. McCain amended the motion to include information on “specific, measurable results.”
Villella asked if that amounted to asking for specifics from an organization that does not yet exist.
“I would say they should know what their purpose is before they organize,” McCain said. “And they haven’t done anything.”
That motion was ultimately approved unanimously.