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Published: Friday, 6/3/2005

City, county development teams unite

After mollifying a disgruntled faction of township trustees, Toledo and Lucas County plan to merge their economic development departments today.

The dropping of a lawsuit filed by Springfield Township that delayed the merger cleared the way for the Lucas County Improvement Corp. to become the economic development arm for the city and county without any more delays.

Members of the organization are scheduled to meet this morning at the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments to change the bylaws of the improvement corporation in a way that will allow the city and county to control the LCIC for economic development purposes.

"I think it's a very important step in [regionalism] for economic development," William Carroll, the city's development director, said. "One of the reasons why we used the LCIC was to incorporate all the community resources available for economic development between the county and the city."

The LCIC, which until now has been a relatively low-key organization that does things like make small-business loans, will become an important player in economic development after today's meeting.

Mr. Carroll said the city will contribute $1.1 million in staff salaries and other expenditures, while the county plans to put in $635,000. Because the city and county will control the purse strings, their appointees also will control the executive board of LCIC. Essentially, that gives them control of the organization itself.

A faction of township trustees complained in April about their role in the organization and filed a lawsuit in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to block the procedure through which LCIC's bylaws were being changed.

Springfield Township Trustee Andy Glenn said that the lawsuit was dropped because language will be written into the bylaws to prohibit LCIC from undertaking annexations and joint economic development zones without agreement with the affected township.

"We think there have been some good changes made to the proposed bylaws," Mr. Glenn said. "We still think there is some work to do, but we think the changes that have been made are important enough that we went ahead and dropped the lawsuit."

Commissioner Pete Gerken said the purpose of merger is to foster a cooperative relationship for economic development in the region.

He said there were no ulterior motives, such as annexing land.

Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the county commissioners, said she's glad the concerns some of the trustees had have been cleared up so the merger can be completed.

"The way that we currently do economic development is not acceptable because we're not making enough progress in a timely fashion to benefit our region," she said.

In previous statements, Commissioner Maggie Thurber expressed support for a regional approach to economic development, but yesterday she voted against the county's appointees to LCIC because she objected to the process by which they were selected. "The policy regarding board appointments says we advertise, we solicit applications, and then we make a decision," she said. "It is an open and inclusive process. This is not."



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