Jeff Sprague and David Berger could have kept their heads down and thrown verbal haymakers at each other for 15 rounds.
Fortunately, both understood the consequences of such actions. It could only hurt the economic development projects that each are working so hard to bring to the region.
So by week’s end, peace had been restored between the president/CEO of the Allen Economic Development Group and Lima’s mayor. The mayor even offered AEDG the services of one of his key executives, finance director Stephen Cleaves, which Sprague graciously accepted. His duties have yet to be defined.
What hasn’t been resolved, however, is the issue that divided the two – the performance of the Lima/Allen County Building Department. That’s in the court of the Allen County commissioners, who eventually will decide if they contract with Miami County to handle building permits or keep them local. Should the commissioners decide to take their work to another county, it would leave the Lima Building Department a shell of itself.
The bottom line is the commissioners need to decide what’s in the best interest of the county’s residents as opposed to what’s best for Lima’s Building Department. Maybe it’s better to keep things local, or maybe an outside entity can work with contractors more efficiently.
To answer that question, the commissioners should move forward with their plans to hire an independent agency to survey contractors and developers about the performance of the Lima department. From that, they can determine the scope of any problems and if they’re fixable.
The city has conducted its own survey – and while the questions were constructed without bias and people could answer anonymously – only 53 people responded, or roughly 20 percent of those who received the survey.
Once Allen County receives this valuable data, the commissioners should learn from this week’s entanglements and directly address their concerns with Lima’s administration. The city deserves the opportunity to correct any faults before abruptly losing the work.
That can be the lasting lesson from this week: Cooler heads and a little bit of communication can go a long way to making the region a better place.