Almost $80,000 has been spent to renovate space for concerts and other events at the Erie Street Market - all without Toledo City Council approval, according to Finkbeiner administration records.
The expenditures came as a shock to Councilman D. Michael Collins, who blasted the administration for ordering the work without first asking council.
"They are cutting the work into pieces in order to avoid the scrutiny of council," Mr. Collins said.
The mayor, according to the city charter, doesn't need council approval for anything costing less than $10,000.
So far, the work at the market building, 237 South Erie St., totals $79,879, which was split into 13 contracts - all less than the $10,000 threshold.
The work done and the costs or estimates are:
•Move metal retail racks/booths from Bay 4 to Bay 2, $9,875.
•Exterior public wood deck expansion, $8,913.
•Security cameras for Bay 4 concerts, $6,740.
•Interior counters/fascia for food and drink booths, $8,969.
•Exterior east wall and historic stage restoration, $9,000
•Interior painting, new security pit, moving estimate, $9,000.
•Interior flooring restoration, $5,000.
•Phone communication improvements, stage power, $6,000.
•Floor cleaning and wax, $2,400.
•Welding of security wall, plumbing estimate, $6,000.
•Basement stairwell fencing, $2,500
•New glass door at east wall, $2,500
•Refrigeration cases, $3,000
"You don't need council approval for everything," Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said last night, noting that there's an allocation in the general fund operating budget allocation to cover the cost of improvements made to city structures.
The mayor accused Mr. Collins of "taking cheap shots" and trying to grab attention for himself.
"We are on the verge of making a huge breakthrough with the Erie Street Market," Mr. Finkbeiner said. "I would assume any smart person would expect that it would take some expenditures to do what we said was going to be done there."
The mayor last month announced that local concert promoter Robert Croak, of the Verso Group, had been given the go-ahead to hold concerts and other events at the market, marking the first time in almost a decade that the city-owned venue will have public shows.
There is a "Metro Mixer" public party planned for tomorrow, and the first concert will be Saturday.
"So now we are 48 hours before an opening and all of a sudden everyone wants to go negative, and I think that's unfair," Mr. Finkbeiner said.
The city expects to make between $10,000 to $15,000 a month, but could get as much as $10,000 in profit per event, the mayor said.
"We are going to concede the defeat of Toledo if people don't begin to see there is a lot of good strong positive things being done and all we are hearing about is the negative," Mr. Finkbeiner said.
Last year at this time, the market building, which was being operated by the now-defunct CitiFest, was running a deficit of about $50,000.
Since Jan. 1, while under control of the Finkbeiner administration, it has generated more than $26,000.
In April, Mr. Finkbeiner announced a plan to sell 25 parcels of property - including the market - for $4.2 million to Tetra Tech Inc., of Pasadena, Calif.
The firm has plans to develop the area near Swan Creek downtown into a $300 million mixed-use riverwalk development.
The Tetra Tech purchase agreement lets the company evaluate the property and determine whether the development is feasible.
Mr. Finkbeiner said the $79,879 in renovations fit in with plans the firm has for the area.
Mr. Collins, an increasingly vocal critic of the mayor, said he was more concerned about how the administration handled the project.
"Don't pull the wool over my head. I knew those dirty, rotten, sleazy [people] were keeping all these contract bills under $10,000," he said. "The truth of the matter is he could have gotten away with it if I hadn't followed up on it."
Mr. Collins said he also has a problem with who the mayor selected to run the concert venue.
Croak was convicted on one count of forgery and has been arrested for but not convicted of underage alcohol sales, according to court records.
The forgery conviction stems from accusations that Croak falsified records to obtain a liquor permit.
Mr. Finkbeiner acknowledged that Croak is "not squeaky clean," but said he was selected for the job because of his connections and experience with bookings and promotions.
Croak said last night that he would not respond to Mr. Collins' concerns about his criminal history.
Croak founded the River East Entertainment District on Main Street - Club 128, the Main Event, and Frankie's Inner City Lounge.
All three nightclubs at one time or another were under scrutiny from state liquor control and city police for problems that included noise, drugs, underage consumption of alcohol, unruly juveniles, and public indecency.
In 2001, Croak was arrested and accused of allowing underage drinking at the Main Event and operating a business where alcohol is sold or furnished in violation of the law. He pleaded not guilty; the charges eventually were dismissed.
Because of his convictions, Croak is not allowed to be associated with alcohol sales at the market, said Robert Reinbolt, the mayor's chief of staff.
The Erie Street Market building is divided into four sections, or bays.
The bay on the north side of the building houses Libbey Glass Factory Outlet. Bay 2, formerly an antiques marketplace, was vacant. A third bay, Civic Center Promenade, is used for private parties.
Bay 4, which people often think of as the market itself, was cleared of its antique and food vendors and has undergone the renovations in question. That bay, which has the building's original stage, was known as the Civic Auditorium.
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