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Published: Friday, 6/8/2007

River East sets July 1 to reopen its health clinic

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A war of words over the River East Community Heath Center, involving two nonprofit organizations, heated up yesterday as they traded accusations that the other was the blame for delays in reopening the East Toledo clinic.

The clinic at 117 Main St. has been closed since Feb. 19 after water pipes froze and burst, flooding the facility. Doni Miller, the Neighborhood Health Association's chief executive, said repair delays by the River East Economic Revitalization Corp., which owns the building, is costing her association money and now threatens hard-won federal grants to the clinic and the association.

Rick Rudnicki, chairman of the River East board, though, said yesterday it was the Neighborhood Health Association that partly caused the delay by not removing its equipment until three weeks ago, preventing River East from making some of the repairs.

"Truth be told, it took [Neighborhood Health Association] months to clean out their things," Mr. Rudnicki said. "I just don't know what the heck they are doing. They're just as much the blame. They delayed, delayed, delayed and didn't come in and clean out [the clinic]. They had their stuff in the way. Our people couldn't do the work. They canceled meetings and changed dates and chased our people around."

Told yesterday of Mr. Rudnicki's comments, Ms. Miller said they weren't true. She said the Neighborhood Health Association didn't immediately remove its items from the office because there was no need to at that time, and other things they were told would be done were not. "We removed our things as quickly as they gave us a schedule to remove them," she said. "We didn't remove them earlier because they weren't doing any work earlier.

"There was no reason to remove those things and pay to store them someplace else when they were not doing the work."

Mr. Rudnicki said the July 1 move-in date for the association was "golden" and the work will be done. He said that date was clear between the two organizations and he doesn't understand the problem.

"As far as we knew, everything was on track," Mr. Rudnicki said. "It hasn't been easy opening it because the [burst pipe] was a major disaster, but if she's going to try to blame a major disaster on us, well that's a shame. She could move in within a week if she wants to. We've bent over backwards to make this work."

Ms. Miller said River East has failed to make good on several target dates and she is considering filing a lawsuit if it doesn't come through this time.

Mr. Rudnicki acknowledged there have been other move-in dates given, but they have been missed for legitimate reasons. He said the resignation of executive director Don Monroe at the same time the health center was damaged made it hard on the corporation, but it has worked in good faith to make things right.

"Those weren't intentional delays," Mr. Rudnicki said. "I'm outraged that she went to the paper. She's fighting this battle publicly when we've been taking care of it. All this is, is trying to discredit us and we've done everything. I like Doni and respect Doni, but my God, that's not the way you do business."

Ms. Miller said the Neighborhood Health Association is losing money because of the closure of the facility and delay and all she wants are results - results she said that should not have taken nearly four months.

"We lease from them and their management issues are not our problem," Ms. Miller said. "If they can't manage those buildings as the lessor, then they shouldn't be in the business of managing leased property."

Contact Clyde Hughes at:

chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095.



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