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Published: Thursday, 7/29/2004

Lawsuits prompt meeting of Rossford arena panel

The Rossford Arena Amphitheater Authority board met last night for the first time in nearly 18 months.

The reason for the length of time between meetings: pending litigation. The reason for last night's session: to bring the board up to speed on the pending litigation.

Rossford Mayor Bill Verbosky said he called the meeting to discuss - in a closed-door, executive session - details regarding Perrysburg Township's two lawsuits against Rossford officials. The suits have been before the Ohio Supreme Court since November.

The suits seek to recover the $5 million in unsecured taxpayer funds the township invested in an ice hockey arena and an outdoor amphitheater that never were built, along with $1.2 million in interest and loan costs. Construction of the arena-amphitheater complex began in May, 1999, on a site south of I-75 and the Ohio Turnpike called the "Crossroads of America."

When the RAAA could not arrange permanent financing for the $48 million complex, construction was stopped in November, 1999.

The RAAA then dropped the plans for the arena but insisted it could get the money to finish the amphitheater, which has yet to materialize.

Debts on the never-completed project total well over $18 million, which includes $5 million Perrysburg Township contributed to get the project off the ground with the promise of being repaid in two years along with an 8 percent annual interest.

Some other creditors and contractors involved in the project have their loans secured by real estate.

The board made no decisions after its 20-minute executive session held to "bring the newest members in on what is going on," Mr. Verbosky said.

"We are still committed to getting the amphitheater and getting it completed," he added. "With all the litigation involved and everything in the past, that is not something that will happen overnight. I look to hopefully revive talks [with all those involved] and see how the items in the Supreme Court go, but the intention is to open the lines of communication to get the project up and running again."

In other action, the board voted 4-0 to allow Elmer Hofbauer of Glenwood Road, Rossford, to continue to farm about 55 acres owned by the RAAA. The land is next to the site of the proposed complex.

Mr. Hofbauer and former Rossford Administrator Vince Langevin agreed to the arrangement April 9 with the understanding that Mr. Hofbauer would pay $25 an acre from the proceeds of crop sales from the property.

"I was not part of the negotiations," Mr. Verbosky said. "I felt this needed to come before the RAAA to be approved somewhat after the fact. I guess that's the best way to explain it."

Board members decided to delay selecting new officers until the board's next scheduled meeting Sept. 29, and decided unanimously to have meetings the last Wednesday of every other month, beginning with yesterday's meeting.



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