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Published: Wednesday, 8/10/2011

Councilman urges funds for land go to battle blight

Toledo city councilman Mike Craig. Toledo city councilman Mike Craig.
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A request to spend more than $1 million in city funds to purchase undeveloped land in southwest Toledo met with a counterproposal Tuesday by Councilman Mike Craig, who urged the money be used to tear down blighted buildings.

As part of its recently released budget for permanent improvements, Mayor Mike Bell's administration recommended setting aside a total of $1,055,000 over the next three years to buy 48 acres of industrial-zoned land known as Capital Commons at 5600 Angola Rd.

The proposed payment for the property is more than double the value assessed by the Lucas County Auditor's office, which lists the parcel's worth at $426,200.

At a council meeting Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Craig said the city should put $650,000 of the proposed purchase money toward destroying vacant and rundown structures, a task at which the city struggles to keep up.

The council agreed to consider his proposal at meetings next week to discuss Capital Commons and the permanent improvements budget.

Tom Crothers, deputy mayor for external relations, countered that the purchase of Capital Commons would be good for economic development in Toledo and would create jobs, although he did not provide details on what the city plans to do with the property.

Mr. Craig said tearing down blighted buildings could also be considered an investment in Toledo's economy because it would help attract more residents to the city and bolster the tax base.

"We have to make our neighborhoods, neighborhoods of choice, not neighborhoods of necessity," he said.

City councilmen also expressed concern and relief Tuesday over revelations by Mr. Crothers that Toledo's water treatment plant narrowly avoided a major catastrophe Friday night.

A pump station in Jerusalem Township that sends water from Lake Erie to the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant malfunctioned at 6:50 p.m., prompting a shutdown of the treatment plant for nearly four hours, city officials reported.

Storage reserves were used to continue providing water to the community.

Maintenance crews arrived quickly and were able to repair the problem, but Mr. Crothers said the malfunction could have ended disastrously, with a requirement of as long as a year that residents boil their water.

Also Tuesday, council approved leasing a building from the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority for $26,142 a month to relocate the city's fleet and facilities operation from its current dilapidated quarters on Albion Street.

As part of the agreement the city will have the option to purchase the new building, at 555 North Expressway Drive, with lease payments put toward that purchase. Ed Moore, director of public service, said the city is looking at options to buy the building, valued at $3.1 million, and expects to present a plan within six months to a year.

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett cbarrett@theblade.com or 419-724-6272

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