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Published: Wednesday, 1/12/2005

Toledo tow lot plan OK'd as mayor breaks tie vote

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Mayor Jack Ford exercised mayoral clout last night, breaking ties to create a central police tow lot and to award the contract for an electrical generation project.

And he told council he had new doubts about a proposed deal to sell scientific and technical equipment left over from a soured 1995 deal involving a start-up high-tech company.

The proposed police tow lot would give citizens a central location to reclaim vehicles ordered towed by police. It is expected to generate $454,000 in new revenue for the city's operating budget.

The Toledo Towing Association, representing the 16 private towing companies, fought the proposal.

"There are a lot of hurdles yet to come," said Jerry Throne, the association's president, citing the zoning process as one.

The association last night said 62 jobs would be lost, for a total of $1.5 million in payroll.

About 14,000 vehicles are towed annually, mostly the result of crimes, failure to maintain license or insurance, accidents, or thefts.

Voting for the tow lot were Councilmen Wilma Brown, Phillip Copeland, Louis Escobar, Ellen Grachek, Karyn McConnell Hancock, and Michael Ashford. Voting no were Councilmen Wade Kapszukiewicz, Rob Ludeman, Bob McCloskey, George Sarantou, Betty Shultz, and Frank Szollosi.

Mr. Ford voted yes to approve the plan.

Chief Mike Navarre said the city is looking at several parcels of about 20 acres, located away from residential areas.

Also yesterday, the mayor broke a procedural tie to force council to vote on a proposed contract with Middough Consulting Inc., based in Cleveland, to engineer a system to generate electricity from methane gas from the Hoffman Road landfill.

Middough bid $1.7 million for the work, which is expected to involve $18 million in construction.

Several councilmen supported a more costly bid from Poggemeyer Design Group of Bowling Green, claiming it would save the city more money on electricity over the next 25 years.

Councilmen Grachek, Kapszukiewicz, Ludeman, McCloskey, Sarantou, and Szollosi voted yes on a motion to delay the ordinance for two weeks. Councilmen Brown, Copeland, Escobar, McConnell Hancock, Shultz, and Ashford voted against the delay. Mr. Ford broke the tie to defeat the motion.

On the vote to approve the contract, Mr. Ludeman voted yes, approving the Middough bid 7-5.

Former Councilman Peter Gerken, who had backed the Poggemeyer bid, said, "The mayor used all his ability to lobby council."

Also yesterday, council approved:

●An ordinance creating a code violation for "nuisance parties," aimed mainly at rowdy student houses in residential areas.

●Creation of a Marina District community development district that includes eight residential blocks on the east side of Front Street, across from the proposed Marina District project.

In other action, Mr. Ford informed council that he has learned that a consultant of Midwest Micro Devices LLC, which is seeking to acquire leftover technical equipment owned by the city, was involved in PICO Systems Inc., which went out of business in 1998 without making payments on a $1.2 million federal loan now owed by the city.

Mr. Ford said he didn't want to allow anyone who participated in the failed PICO deal to benefit now without paying back some share of the lost money. The city borrowed the money in 1995 to help PICO set up a technology clean room in the Seagate Business Center, 333 North 14th St., in 1995.

"It's going to be awful tough for me to sign off on somebody who left the city holding the bag," Mr. Ford said.

Christopher Melkonian, president of Midwest Micro Devices, said last night that his "interim chief executive officer," Jeff Banker, was president of PICO and had invested $10,000 to $15,000, which he lost.

Mr. Melkonian said it was unfair to punish Midwest over what he said was Toledo's failure to protect its $1.2 million investment in the "clean room" and the purchase of equipment. Mr. Melkonian, a tenant of Seagate Business Center, is seeking control of the leftover equipment to make micro electro-mechanical devices.

He said his financial backer is EPI Global of Millbury, known locally as Electro Plasma Inc.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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