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Published: Wednesday, 10/6/2004

Price of sewer fix closes in on $2M as city OKs funds

Toledo City Council last night allocated another $1.47 million to fix a collapsed sewer pipe 70 feet below Front Street on the east side, bringing the projected price tag to almost $2 million.

City officials said the pipe, an interceptor collecting waste from all over East Toledo, collapsed beneath an embankment built in 1998 to carry truck traffic across a railroad to the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority docks.

Councilman Peter Gerken said the mayor and the city law director should see if any of the contractors involved in that project or their performance bonds or any other sources should share some of the cost.

"I've never seen an expenditure for one repair approach $2 million," said Mr. Gerken, chairman of council's environment, utilities, and public service committee. "We need to protect our reserve funds, and this does take a bite."

William Franklin, assistant chief operating officer and a city engineer, said two studies were done on the weight problem before the overpass was built. He said the studies concluded the interceptor was safe.

He said the weight, truck or railroad vibrations, or weaknesses in concrete could have contributed to the failure of the 72-inch interceptor.

Front Street has been closed at the sinkhole, near Wheeling Street, since Aug. 4.

Council approved spending $500,000 on Aug. 10. Last night it approved accepting a $300,000 grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission and an allocation of $1.17 million from the city's utilities reserve account.

A large part of the repair cost, about $700,000, covers the planned insertion of a synthetic liner to protect the rest of the sewer beneath the 1,400-feet-wide embankment.

"It's the prudent thing to do. This is the interceptor that serves all of East Toledo," Mr. Franklin said.

Mr. Franklin said excavators are working in a 32-foot wide shaft and have dug to about 55 feet deep. He said the goal is to reopen Front Street by Dec. 23.

In other action, council voted 11-0 to spend $40,000 to hire an outside attorney to represent Councilman Bob McCloskey in a $10 million lawsuit. Mr. McCloskey abstained from the vote.

Mr. McCloskey was accused of pressuring an applicant for a rezoning to give $100,000 to a prescription drug fund for Pilkington PLC retirees, of which he is one. The suit also names the city of Toledo.

The case was filed in May by a Michigan developer who, in 2002, sought to rezone 1701 East Broadway, then owned by Pilkington, for a charter school. The zoning application was turned down. The property was later rezoned for a new Toledo Public Schools middle school. campus.

In a June 25 deposition obtained by The Blade, Mr. McCloskey refused to answer on the ground that he might incriminate himself when asked if the $100,000 payment was a condition for his support of the rezoning.

Mr. McCloskey has acknowledged requesting the payment, which he claimed Pilkington owed to its retirees. He said the benefit would not apply to him because he receives city benefits.

Council also:

w●Confirmed the appointment of Jenelda Witcher, a Toledo lawyer, to a vacancy on the Toledo Plan Commission. She replaces Sue Wuest, whose term ended in March.

Ms. Witcher was a clerk in the Toledo Police Department from 1978 to 1996. She received her law degree from the University of Toledo in 1994 and has been in private practice since 1995.

w●Endorsed renewal of a 0.4-mill levy for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority by an 11-0 vote. Councilman Frank Szollosi abstained because he has a $10,000 public relations contract with the levy campaign committee.

w●Approved selling three lots on Dorr Street, west of Smead Avenue, to Four Seasons Housing Corp. The company plans 12 market-rate townhouses, District 1 Councilman Wilma Brown said.

w●Approved a series of increased construction fees, to generate $260,000 in additional revenue. Chief Building Official Clinton Wallace said the legislation also requires journeyman electricians to obtain 10 hours of continuing education every three years.

w●Approved rezoning of a gas station at 2481 North Detroit Ave. from neighborhood commercial to regional commercial to allow for a used car lot. The Toledo Plan Commission recommended disapproval of the rezoning, which passed 10-2, with Councilmen Louis Escobar and George Sarantou voting no.



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