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Published: Wednesday, 1/21/2009

Toledo City Council OKs $65,000 for solar project

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo City Council agreed last night to a smaller investment toward engineering and designing a municipal solar field - a $5 million project submitted as part of the city's wish list for President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan.

Council voted 11-0 to authorize the Finkbeiner administration to spend $65,000 from Toledo's 2009 capital improvement budget to design and engineer the project. Councilman Michael Ashford was not present.

Councilman Joe McNamara wanted council to dedicate up to $200,000 for the solar field at the capped Dura landfill. The measure was revised to eliminate a specific site and reduce the funding.

"The administration was willing to support it if it was moved to the [city's] water treatment plant," Mr. McNamara said.

That location would be more secure and the power generated by the solar field could be used to power the water treatment facility, he said.

"We are creating an environment in which we can create jobs," Councilman Lindsay Webb said.

Toledo mayoral candidate Keith Wilkowski proposed in September that $5 million be spent to put solar panels at the former Dura landfill to generate electricity for the city and bolster northwest Ohio's developing solar-energy industry.

Todd Michaelsen, the Ohio/Michigan chapter manager for the National Electrical Contractors Association, told council last week that the solar field would pay for itself through energy savings in 15 years.

Also last night, a majority of council disregarded Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's request to rezone nearly 1.7 acres along River Road between Burroughs and Brookford drives from park to residential.

The mayor wanted the zoning change so the city could sell property for residential development.

"As we, and [Toledo Public Schools] strive to balance our respective budgets, how can we afford not to sell a parcel of land that has value and is unused by our citizens," the mayor wrote in a letter to council yesterday.

The city has an offer to purchase the property from Karel Czanderna of St. Joseph, Mich., for $165,000.

Opponents of the zone change and sale, including Councilman D. Michael Collins, said the property serves as a park for the neighborhood.

The property, between houses on River Road, has no park equipment. In 2007, the administration put a "for sale" sign on the property and drew the ire of residents and then-District Councilman Rob Ludeman, who successfully opposed an attempt by Mr. Finkbeiner in 1999 to sell the riverfront property.

In other business, council:

•Voted 10-0 to prohibit the city from paying any percentage of any new employee's pension contribution in lieu of the employee paying the same. It would apply to employees hired after Dec. 31, 2008.

•Voted 10-0 to fund CareNet, the health-care plan for low-income Lucas County residents, with $32,500.

Councilman Frank Szollosi did not arrive until after the two votes were taken.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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