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Published: 11/18/2000

Kest: City should weigh investing in arena bonds

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo should join Lucas County in buying bonds if the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority builds a civic arena as part of a proposed riverfront development, county Treasurer Ray Kest said yesterday.

Mr. Kest told the port authority's board of directors during its meeting yesterday that he believes the proposed $22.5 million in bonds the authority might issue, should it adopt Columbus developer Frank Kass's Marina District vision, would be a prudent investment for county taxpayers.

He said such bonds could be a good addition to the city's investment portfolio that would allow Toledo to realize a return on the arena project without building the facility. The city charter requires a referendum vote on city construction of arenas, theaters, or similar venues.

“If it's a good investment for the county, it should be a good investment for the city,” Mr. Kest said after the meeting.

City officials would have to change a standing city policy that precludes buying bonds issued by other local government agencies, Mr. Kest said, but doing so in this case would be good policy.

“Instead of buying another Treasury bill to finance more F-16s for the federal government, this would be a local investment,” he said. “It's good government and good planning to invest in our local community.”

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, en route to Columbus for the Ohio State-Michigan football game, was not available for comment yesterday afternoon.

Peter Ujvagi, president of Toledo's city council, said the administration's first step before making such an investment should be a referral to bond counsel.

“If it's a good, sound investment, then it should be looked at,” Mr. Ujvagi said. But the city already is being asked for significant financial contributions toward the Marina District, he said.

Mr. Kass, who outlined the Marina District proposal to the port board prior to Mr. Kest's remarks, has proposed that the city provide more than $8 million for infrastructure improvements and environmental cleanup. He also has proposed a special taxing district that would divert $30 million in city tax revenue to paying off the cost of building parking garages at the arena.

Later during its meeting, the port board approved paying Proudfoot Associates, of Toledo, and Savage Industries, Inc., of Salt Lake City, $25,000 to study the feasibility of building a coal-blending terminal at the port authority's Facility No. 3, a dredge-disposal island at the mouth of the Maumee River.

If built, hotter-burning coal from Appalachian mines could be mixed at such a facility with Wyoming-mined coal that has a lower sulfur content to create a blend for consumption at coal-fired power plants around the eastern Great Lakes, port staff have said. Coal could be transported to or from the site by boat or by train.

One potential consumer of such blended coal is the Toledo Edison Bay Shore power plant in Oregon, which is next to the proposed terminal site. Toledo Edison will contribute $4,000 toward the cost of the $29,000 feasibility study.



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