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Published: Wednesday, 7/30/2008

Plan to assess LCIC advances; Dan Johnson to lead task force

BY ALEX M. PARKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The proposed independent assessment of the Lucas County Improvement Corp. by the University of Toledo moved forward yesterday after the LCIC's executive committee unanimously approved the idea during a special meeting.

Dan Johnson, a former UT president, will head the task force, which will review the LCIC's actions and make recommendations to the county commissioners about any changes.

Mr. Johnson will choose four other community members to serve on the committee.

He said he hoped the task force could help all three commissioners find a consensus about the agency, which has been surrounded by controversy during the last year.

"The major purpose of doing this is to see if there is a way we can help the county commissioners find common ground on the issues related to economic development," said Mr. Johnson, who did not attend yesterday's meeting.

The idea was proposed by Tina Skeldon Wozniak, the president of the commissioners.

The committee would review the LCIC by interviewing its board and staff and studying its operations before returning with possible recommendations.

Ms. Wozniak said she didn't expect the review to take longer than 45 days, and it would not cost taxpayers any money.

The LCIC acts as the economic development agency for the county government, although its executive committee has representatives from the city of Toledo as well as cities, villages, and townships from throughout the county.

Ever since Toledo pulled its funding earlier this year, the majority of the LCIC's budget has come from the county's general operating fund.

Commissioner Ben Konop opposed the task force, and questioned whether Mr. Johnson - who served on the LCIC's director search committee earlier this year - was too closely tied to the agency to be an objective observer.

Mr. Johnson said he could be objective.

"Certainly, there's no agenda here other than to help the commissioners find consensus to move forward," Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Konop and the LCIC executive board members often quarreled yesterday over the recent resignation of board Chairman Rob Robinson, the future of the agency, and a request from Mr. Konop for information about the agency's progress, which has yet to be answered.

Mr. Konop is not a member of the executive committee, but he was allowed to speak - although some committee members angrily accused him of hindering the agency's progress.

"We are rehashing the same garbage that we have rehashed when this first started. It's time to move forward," Oregon Mayor Marge Brown said. "Some of us are just tired of the same garbage, day in, day out. You're not helping."

Mr. Konop replied that the county's high unemployment and poverty rates called for action.

"The people of this community are tired of the lack of opportunity," Mr. Konop said. "I don't feel any sympathy for this board, that they are tired of talking about economic development."

Contact Alex M. Parker at:

aparker@theblade.com

or 419-724-6107.



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