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Published: 10/28/2009

Toledo council trims deficit, sets aside casino vote

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo City Council paid down the city's general fund deficit to $2.1 million last night by redirecting unused capital improvement money and accepting a grant from FirstEnergy Solutions in exchange for staying with the firm's electric aggregation contract.

Also last night, council avoided a potentially controversial vote to endorse State Issue 3, which would allow casino gambling at four specified Ohio sites, including Miami Street in East Toledo.

Councilman Lindsay Webb, who had sponsored the resolution, tabled it to spare her fellow councilmen embarrassment regarding their vote - especially the four at-large members seeking reelection on Nov. 4.

"The Democratic Party has endorsed the issue, every major labor organization has endorsed the issue," Ms. Webb, who is an Issue 3 supporter, said. "I did not want to put them in the position where they would go against their backers [by publicly opposing]."

During council's lengthy committee hearing on the casino issue on Oct. 15, proponents and opponents each made their case.

Rossford City Council voted 5-0 Monday night with one absence and one abstention to endorse Issue 3.

Regarding the city's deficit, Toledo council voted 10-1 to approve a suggestion by Council President Joe McNamara to spend $2.51 million of the $3.9 million of capital improvement money left over from voters' rejection last month of the Safety First plan.

Councilman Betty Shultz voted no and Councilman Phillip Copeland was not present.

The move was made after some wrangling on alternative ideas that were ultimately abandoned.

Mrs. Shultz tabled her idea to use $2 million of the $3.9 million for the city's new finance computer system, which already has cost Toledo about $12 million.

The $2.51 million will be used to pay 2010 debt-service costs for the purchase of automated trash trucks and containers, which would have been paid for next year with general fund dollars.

The 180,000 trash and recycling containers - it cost the city $9.67 million to buy two for every household - are supposed to start arriving in the city on Nov. 16.

Council in July spent $12.2 million to buy 40 automated garbage trucks, which the Finkbeiner administration said would be paid for through the city's general fund with savings from layoffs of refuse collectors.

Council last night also voted 11-0 to accept $3.2 million from FirstEnergy Solutions through the Northwest Ohio Aggregation Coalition, which will be applied to the deficit - which had been $7.8 million before council's action.

The city gets the money in exchange for a six-year extension of an electric aggregation contract.

"Tonight, we reduced the deficit by a total of $5.7 million," Mr. McNamara said after council's regular meeting.

Council then allocated $747,650 of the leftover capital improvement money as matching money for a new East Toledo fire station.

That leaves $640,000 of the original $3.9 million unallocated.

Ms. Webb withdrew a proposal to spend $384,000 of that remaining balance on five capital improvement projects citywide.

In other business, council voted 10-1 to pay a Toledo woman $125,000 to settle a lawsuit she filed accusing three city police officers of fracturing her skull during an arrest in 2007.

Councilman Tom Waniweski voted against.

Alisha Lauharn filed suit in U.S. District Court in Toledo against the city and police Officers Ashley Nichols, Joseph Petro, and Scott Williamson. The officers were not disciplined, police Chief Mike Navarre said.

Council also voted 11-0 to urge Mayor Carty Finkbeiner to start the long process of hiring police recruits.

Theresa M. Gabriel, the mayor's assistant chief of staff, said Mr. Finkbeiner would include funding for a new class of police recruits in the 2010 budget, which is due to go to council on Nov. 15.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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