A steamed Toledo Mayor Jack Ford responded yesterday to critics of his plan to add $300,000 in city funds to the downtown steam plant development plan - saying it's a fraction of what his predecessor spent on the building.
Mr. Ford is asking council approval to sell the cavernous structure along the Maumee River at the foot of Madison Avenue to Toledo developers Jimmy Jackson and David Ball in exchange for their agreement to build and market 108 upscale apartments and condos. They plan to invest $20 million in the project.
The mayor and his staff told council members that the city spent $1.85 million before he became mayor on previous failed development efforts and still has an empty building.
"If you've already spent over a million dollars and you haven't got squat, why are you bitching about $300,000?" Mr. Ford asked, specifically directing his question to Councilman Rob Ludeman, a possible Republican mayoral candidate. "The $300,000 is to get it off the dime and get someone to bid on it."
Mr. Ford showed up at council's agenda session yesterday to comment on the proposed $300,000 contribution to Water Street Development Co. LLC's planned renovation.
Council has scheduled a public hearing on the project for 4 p.m. Monday and a vote the following day.
Mr. Ludeman and others have questioned the $300,000 in capital improvement funds.
"There's been very little information from the administration to us," Mr. Ludeman said. "The information to us was that one [developer] wanted $300,000, the other did not. The information one has at the time is what one has to deal with."
The mayor said the losing bidder, KG&R Development Corp. of Tiffin, also wanted the city's $300,000 contribution, contrary to the belief that KG&R claimed not to need the money. "He did want the $300,000. He says that very clearly," Mr. Ford said.
Mr. Ludeman said if he was mistaken it was because of the administration's failure to inform council.
According to records provided to The Blade yesterday, Rod Kagy, a Tiffin resident and owner of KG&R Development, turned in a detailed proposal for a $14.8 million project on Aug. 18, 2004. That proposal included an expectation of $350,000 in "equity," a word that city officials said means a cash contribution.
The mayor announced on Aug. 20 that he would recommend awarding the contract to Mr. Jackson, a Toledo native and NBA player, and Mr. Ball, developer of several major downtown buildings.
Mr. Ford said the offer from Mr. Kagy came in "in pieces."
Bill Carroll, the city's director of economic and community development, said the city has spent $1.05 million in city money and $800,000 in cash the city received from Toledo Edison, owner of the structure when the building changed hands in 1999.
Mr. Ball also attended the council meeting and introduced the team's construction manager, Dana Noel, president of Jera Contractors Inc. of Akron. Mr. Noel said the city's $300,000 would be spent to pay for a site condition and environmental survey, permits, site supervision, demolition, excavation, asphalt, and masonry tuck-pointing.
Questioned by councilmen whether local union construction workers would get jobs, Mr. Noel refused to make a guarantee. But he said because federal prevailing wage rates would apply, union firms would have an equal chance with nonunion firms to get contracts.
Dwight Smith, executive regional director of the Regional Council of Carpenters, and other union chiefs, met later with Mr. Ball, Mr. Noel, and city officials, and came away pleased.
"We're as excited to see it started as the city fathers," Mr. Smith said. "With prevailing wage and the training we provide, we can be competitive."
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