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Published: Wednesday, 6/18/2008

Toledo Council delays vote on union labor requirement for Marina District

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo City Council last night put off a vote on a proposed ordinance to require only union labor for private development at the riverfront Marina District on the city's east side - a constraint both Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and Developer Larry Dillin said would kill the project.

Councilman Frank Szollosi suggested council add a restrictive covenant to the deed of 58 acres being sold to Mr. Dillin requiring the use of only unionized labor at the residential and commercial development.

"The public has put quite a bit of tax dollars into this 58 acres and, though we are rolling it into private property, I think the same principles apply as for public construction," Mr. Szollosi said.

Mayor Finkbeiner called the idea inappropriate. "This legislation will kill the Marina District and will send the wrong message to other investors considering development projects in Toledo," the mayor wrote yesterday to all 12 councilmen.

Mr. Dillin echoed Mr. Finkbeiner's position. "We are strong supporters of organized labor and we have been in dialogue with the trades council and carpenters union on Marina District projects and other projects," he said.

"I just don't think people understand how difficult it is to put these projects together and we keep running up against these roadblocks."

The city and Mr. Dillin have been involved for years in talks to transform the heavily polluted former industrial site bounded by the Maumee River, Front and Main streets, and I-280 into a $320 million private development.

There also is a $20 million public investment in a riverfront park and roadways.

Also last night, council approved, by an 8-3 vote, a controversial ordinance that requires owners of vacant home buildings to register and pay a fee.

Councilmen George Sarantou, Tom Waniewski, and Mike Craig voted no. Councilman Betty Shultz was not present.

"I believe the city will have a list of vacant homes and that list will fall into the hands of criminals," Mr. Sarantou said after the meeting. "How will people who can't afford to pay property taxes pay these very high fines?"

The fee starts at $100 for residential buildings and increases the longer a property is vacant. It tops out at $3,000 for residential buildings vacant for at least six years and $60 additional for each apartment unit over the eighth one.

Mr. Waniewski said the ordinance creates an undue burden on property owners.

Tom Kroma, acting chief of staff for Mayor Finkbeiner, said he was pleased the law was approved.

"It is another tool in the toolbox for our neighborhoods department to help improve our neighborhoods," Mr. Kroma said.

Vacant homes often are the targets of thieves who strip valuable aluminum and other metals from the structures.

Council last night approved an ordinance giving the city authority to seize vehicles used to transport stolen scrap metal.

In other business, council failed to comply with a May 30 order from Toledo Municipal Court judges to fund drug testing of criminal offenders.

Mr. Sarantou, Mr. Waniewski, Councilmen Mark Sobczak, Lindsay Webb, and D. Michael Collins voted against suspending council rules to waive first and second readings of a proposal to restore $45,000 for drug testing.

Council can vote on the proposal in two weeks.

Councilman Joe McNamara had suggested diverting revenue generated from Toledo's refuse fee, which in May was about $70,000 more than the city budgeted.

Mr. Collins said he supported funding the testing, but wanted to have more discussion during a committee hearing this week.

Council also:

•Voted down spending nearly $53,000 for expert testimony in its lawsuit against a Kansas City engineering firm for problems with the Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge renovation.

Ms. Webb and Mr. Collins questioned why the Finkbeiner administration wanted to take money from the city's street-repair fund rather than a risk-management fund.

•Agreed to pay $560,981 for Toledo's share of the cost for a Monclova Township roadway built by the Lucas County engineer. Mr. McNamara cast the lone no vote.

Technology Drive connects Jerome and Maumee-Western roads across 118 acres that is in the township but owned by the city.

•Authorized AdBinz, a Toledo startup company, to place waste receptacles with advertising on them at TARTA bus stops for six months. There is no cost to the city and the targeted bus stops are without trash cans.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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