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Published: Friday, 3/25/2005

Firm halts work on possible O-I move

BY TOM TROY AND RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Poggemeyer Design Group, part of a team selected to plan the Marina District project in Toledo, has halted its work with the city of Perrysburg on all issues relating to the possible relocation of Owens-Illinois Inc. headquarters from downtown Toledo to Perrysburg.

Rick Thielen, Perrysburg's planning and zoning administrator, said Charlene Kerr, principal owner of Poggemeyer, told him March 11 that Toledo city officials pressured the firm to stop its work with Perrysburg.

"Charlene specifically said the firm was contacted by somebody from Toledo with regard to working with Perrysburg on any projects related to O-I," he said.

Ms. Kerr could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Jack Jones, president of Poggemeyer, said his Bowling Green firm made the decision internally to avoid controversy.

"Nobody from Toledo or Lucas County put any pressure on us to do this," Mr. Jones said. "We do work for Toledo, Perrysburg, and O-I, so we don't want any perception of conflict of interest."

Top Toledo city officials yesterday said there was no pressure placed on Poggemeyer that they knew of.

Mayor Jack Ford said he was not aware of any concern about Poggemeyer working for Perrysburg in connection with Owens-Illinois' possible move.

"We're trying to keep O-I based on incentives, based on tradition, and based on what works well with the big picture, so we would not engage in any kind of greenmail," Mr. Ford said.

If it came from someone below him in the city bureaucracy, it would have been an off-hand remark and not official policy, Mr. Ford said.

Jay Black, Jr., the mayor's chief of staff, and Law Director Barb Herring also denied discouraging contractors from working with Perrysburg.

Toledo has offered O-I, a glass container manufacturing company, an estimated $8 million in incentives to keep its headquarters and more than 300 jobs at its current location at One SeaGate.

Perrysburg has made its own offer, worth an estimated $6 million in savings to O-I.

Poggemeyer had been helping Perrysburg expand a community reinvestment area in the southern part of the city. The expanded area, which allows for tax abatements, would include the Levis Development Park site that O-I is considering for its new headquarters.

Mr. Thielen said Perrysburg has paid Poggemeyer about $2,100 so far this year to work on expanding the community reinvestment area and other projects, including consultations on the city's revolving loan funds.

"It's a very small effort for us, and it wasn't worth it to be involved in something so controversial," Mr. Jones said.

Poggemeyer is one of the firms helping to plan Toledo's Marina District, a potential $200 million project on the east bank of the Maumee River.

For Perrysburg, Poggemeyer's decision to stop some of its work means the city will have to rely on Perrysburg personnel to finish expanding the community reinvestment area. Mr. Thielen said administrators are hoping to send the issue to city council for approval on April 5.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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