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Published: Wednesday, 8/11/2004

Lucas County OKs $130,000 for community programs

The Lucas County commissioners approved $130,000 in community grants yesterday over the protests of Commissioner Maggie Thurber.

Organizations such as the Valentine Theatre, the Toledo Jazz Society, and the Toledo Northwestern Ohio Food Bank were among the 20 community organizations receiving money.

In the past, Ms. Thurber has questioned whether the county should be making the contributions given its budget woes, particularly because the giving isn't required. She also has said community giving becomes more palatable to her if an organization can demonstrate that it creates some positive economic impact for the area.

Yesterday, though, her main objection was that her colleagues declined to set up a policy to determine how grants would be awarded.

"I believe this is bad government," Ms. Thurber said. "These funds were distributed based on the personal preferences of two commissioners."

Harry Barlos, president of the commissioners, said the grants represent a small amount of the county's $132 million annual general fund budget and are needed by the agencies.

"There are some agencies that I don't think you could even assess the economic impact from our assistance," he said.

The county has curbed its community funding in recent years. In 2002, for instance, the commissioners doled out $273,000 to various organizations.

Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said she believes the county should make room in its budget for community spending.

"Even in the toughest of times, we have to help the agencies a little bit who help our community," she said.

Arts organizations received the bulk of the community funding, receiving a combined $59,250. The Toledo Symphony received $25,000, the largest single award.

Other awards were more modest. The Valentine Theatre received $6,000, while the Toledo Northwestern Ohio Food Bank, and the Toledo Jazz Society were given $14,000 and $5,000 respectively.

Jon Richardson, president of the Toledo Jazz Society, said the money will help pay for its annual festival, which is continuing to grow.

"The festival this year was the most expensive proposition we had ever undertaken. It was, by all accounts, a big success," he said. "For the commissioners to realize that we're serious contributors to the arts in Lucas County is both gratifying and tremendously helpful."



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