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Published: Tuesday, 6/24/2008

COSI Toledo on the brink of breaking lease

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Isabella Frownfelter of Flint, Mich., rides the high-wire bike on Dec. 31, COSI's last day. Isabella Frownfelter of Flint, Mich., rides the high-wire bike on Dec. 31, COSI's last day.
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COSI Toledo is on the brink of defaulting on its lease agreement and will lose its exhibits, but Toledo City Council is poised to buy the shuttered science museum more time.

Voters will likely be asked in November to help fund the downtown museum's revival, or instead say no for a third time.

Council's environment, utilities, and public service committee yesterday reviewed a request from the Finkbeiner administration to approve an amended lease agreement between the city and the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission, which in turn contracted with COSI.

That lease stipulated a science center would be operated at the 1 Discovery Way building.

The riverfront building is owned by the city and was formerly home to Portside Festival Marketplace.

"The OCFC has invested $10.8 million in those exhibits and they will probably take them if the levy fails again," said Councilman Michael Ashford, chairman of the committee.

Amending the lease prevents that from happening until November but requires the city to make the utility payments and absorb the building's insurance costs.

The city will have to pay an average of about $6,900 a month for utilities and a security system in the COSI building, said Adam Loukx, Toledo's law director.

Mr. Loukx said the city would have to pay for the utilities and security even without the amended lease because it is a city-owned property.

"If the levy fails in November, we are right back where we are now," Mr. Loukx said.

David Waterman, a Toledo lawyer who serves as chairman of the museum's board, could not be reached for comment last night.

Mr. Waterman earlier this month said the board would soon decide whether it would ask voters a third time to help fund the science museum. He did not say if the museum would remain at the same Summit Street location.

The museum's second attempt to pass a 0.167-mill levy failed in November, 2007, forcing it to close after operating for almost 11 years.

Had it been approved by voters, the levy would have generated $1.5 million annually for COSI, allowing it to keep running. The tax would have cost $5.21 a year for the owner of a house valued at $100,000.

Mr. Waterman said the COSI board likely would request the same amount as last year on this November's ballot.

Councilman Lindsay Webb yesterday said the city-owned building is not the right place for a children's science museum. "I just wish Governor Strickland would make gambling legal in Ohio and we could put a casino where COSI is," Ms. Webb said.

More than 1,400 people visited the museum on Dec. 31, its last day of operation.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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