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Published: Thursday, 1/27/2011

Bell touts successes, but warns of tough challenges ahead

In an advanced set of “talking points” Mr. Bell used for the speech, the mayor said the city is now stronger in 2011 because of the difficult decisions made last year.

“When I began my term last January, and delivered my first state of the city in February, Toledo was facing a $48 million deficit,” the advanced copy states.

Mr. Bell talked about closing a $48 million deficit in 2010, getting union concessions, and aggressively collecting delinquent income taxes.

The challenges he identified for 2011 include a city water system facing great “danger” and the need for a rate increase.

Mr. Bell also highlighted his efforts to improve Toledo's relationships with its suburban neighbors, such as the city's contract to take over fire service for Ottawa Hills and the ongoing regional water meetings through the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments.

Although controversial, the Ottawa Hills deal was beneficial for both communities and will save money for both the village and Toledo, Mr. Bell said.

“Toledo was facing staggering overtime in our fire department, which we only anticipated would grow as we see more retirements that outpace our ability to hire and train,” Mr. Bell's talking points stated. “There was an opportunity for us to help each other deliver services and save money through the merging of our fire departments. By absorbing Ottawa Hills fire department and retaining their full time firefighters, Toledo would save nearly $1 million on overtime.”

The village is paying the city $430,000 in service fees under the deal. Also, the 10 full time Ottawa Hills firefighters were hoed by the city.

The mayor stressed that he is not attempting to develop a “Unigov” for northwest Ohio — something that has been suggested after he announced the Ottawa Hills deal.

He said the city should pursue efficiency when it makes sense.

Among those will be his proposal to eliminate city refuse operations and contract with Lucas County for this service. Under that plan, a private trash hauler would collect Toledoans' trash.

“Toledo cannot, on its own, provide Cadillac service on a Pinto budget,” the talking points state, “but working with our neighbors when it makes sense will enable us to afford our residents the service they expect at a more affordable price.”

The mayor also highlighted his attempts to build international business relationships.

In addition to Mr. Bell traveling to China, he has sent representatives to Mexico and received visitors from Turkey, Hungary, and China.

Two Chinese real estate investors have agreed to buy the city-owned Docks restaurant and entertainment complex in East Toledo for $2.15 million, the mayor's office confirmed this week.

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