Under the Hat: Getting Out of the Way - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

Under the Hat: Getting Out of the Way

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If you are one of those people who wish on occasion that everyone at City Hall would just get up and leave, then you're going to want to pay attention to what is happening in Meadville.

If you are one of those people who believe that the best thing government can do for development is to simply get out of the way, then this head's up is for you, too.

Because, you see, city government in Meadville is leaving; vacating the City Building that has been the seat of power since the place was built.

And at this point, the government doesn't even know where it's going, which may not surprise some of those cynics mentioned above.

Here's the deal:

Government in Meadville has been downsizing in recent years and no longer needs a spacious two story building with surrounding campus.

Meanwhile, Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, the company formerly known as Dad's Dog Food is looking for a new place for a "world headquarters," raising some concerns that the company could choose to locate outside the city limits.

Add to that the budget crunch being felt just about everywhere these days and it starts to become clear to Meadville's leadership that extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.

So members of City Council voted to grab everything; zoning plans, sewer bills, even the police department and hit the road.

A new five year lease would give Ainsworth its new headquarters as well as give the City about $270,000 a year in revenue.

In addition, the City would retain one of its larger companies and as a bonus would put the City Building on the tax rolls as well.

Only one problem:

It's hard to run a government out of the back of a Toyota.

City Manager Joe Chriest told me that he will have about nine months to find a new seat for the Halls of Power and is working on a short list of possibilities.

I asked him if he was concerned the town's image could suffer, if City Hall wound up being the second floor above the Five and Dime or a few corner tables at Dunkin' Donuts.

"That's a fair question," he admits.

Everyone is being asked to tighten the belt these days and make the hard choices to protect jobs and make ends meet.

The people of Meadville decided that government is no exception and you know what?

I have to tip my hat to them for that.

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