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Fulton board cancels architectural job on addition

WAUSEON - Architectural work on a proposed addition to the Fulton County Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities offices should end with the Fulton County Commission's 2-1 decision this week not to proceed.

After two of its levies failed May 7, the disabilities board had decided not to go ahead with the $435,000 building project unless money requests pass in November. That 5-2 vote was May 20 when the board made a host of budget cuts that were to be implemented immediately.

But work on the addition continued, and nine days after the decision Toledo architect Thomas Janowiecki applied for a building permit that cost more than $1,100 and is only good for one year.

He said this week that he was not informed until May 30 that the project had any dependency on a levy that had failed. Disabilities Superintendent Debb Stanforth told him the commissioners would go ahead with the project even though the disabilities board had voted to halt it, he said.

Mr. Janowiecki said no one had requested that he withdraw the building permit application and fees when he was told about the levy failure the day after he had filed for the permit.

“We had to keep progressing,” he said.

Ms. Stanforth was out of the office early this week and not available for comment.

The Ottokee Street building was constructed about 30 years ago as a school for retarded students and now is used for programs for babies and toddlers and as an adult sheltered workshop.

Plans call for renovating restrooms, converting a small gymnasium into offices and storage space, and constructing a building for the sheltered workshop that now operates out of the gym.

The disabilities board has spent almost $29,000 in architectural fees to date this year for the addition to the building. It might owe as much as $10,000 for work that has been done but not yet billed, said Cheryl Swisher, business manager of the disabilities board.

Fulton County Commission President Jack Graf said that the commissioners' vote on Monday should put a stop to the spending. He had voted against the motion to reject bids and halt the project, saying he was uncertain how long a state grant promised for the addition would be available and that the decision did not have to be made this month.

The disabilities board was awarded a $217,000 matching grant last year from the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities to put toward the work, provided it raises an equal amount.

The 60-day period for commissioners to act on the projects bids, some of which were under estimate, ended Aug. 13 and Mr. Graf said he favored waiting until then.

Commissioner Dean Genter, who voted with Paul Barnaby to halt the project, said the county needs to concentrate on passing an operating levy instead of debating building projects.

In May a replacement, 2-mill, operating levy that provides almost half of the board's $3.2 million budget failed with a 55 percent no vote.

The levy that would have helped pay for the building addition, a new 0.5 mill, 5-year levy for permanent improvements, failed with a 67 percent no vote.

Decisions on the building project are ultimately up to the commissioners rather than the disabilities board.

Disabilities board president Joe Sevenich said he was not sure whose responsibility it was to tell the architect to halt spending. He predicted the addition will eventually be built and much of the architectural work can be used later.

Commissioners also called back a no-interest loan of $129,000 they had given to the disabilities board earlier this year for the building project. The loan was essentially an advance on donations the board is to receive from businesses that have tax abatements but have agreed to make donations.

The board is to decide Monday on levy requests for the November ballot, which will then go to the commissioners for their consideration.

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