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Published: Wednesday, 8/1/2012

Charter school rejected

Council refuses permit for downtown site

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo City Council on Tuesday narrowly turned down a national charter-school company's request to open up shop in the heart of downtown.

Connections Education had planned to open a site on the fourth floor of One Lake Erie Center, 600 Jefferson Ave.

Connections typically runs online charter and private schools; the new site would be a high school called Nexus Academy of Toledo and would provide a blended school, with students using online curriculum at home and spending part of the day at the site.

Council voted 6-4 on a special-use permit -- one vote shy of approval for the permit.

Voting no were Councilmen Steven Steel, Lindsay Webb, Phil Copeland, and Adam Martinez.

Councilman Tyrone Riley abstained from the vote and later declined to say why. Council rules dictate a member cannot abstain unless he has a conflict. Councilman Paula Hicks-Hudson was not present.

Mr. Steel said he objected to the request because the location is within 1,000 feet of six convenience stores.

Such stores are not allowed to open locations that close to schools, and he argued that the converse should be true as well -- and that council should not allow schools to open so close to those businesses.

Tom Lemon, the city's plan commission director, said that because the building is within an entertainment district, the spacing requirements would not apply.

Other charter schools operate in the downtown area.

Council voted 10-0 -- with Mr. Riley again abstaining without a stated reason -- to grant a special-use permit for a new kindergarten-through-third-grade school at 4747 Heatherdowns Blvd., the former Masonic Temple.

Council then voted 10-1 to approve a special-use permit for an elementary charter school at 6149 Hill Ave., the former Our Lady of Lourdes School.

Council President Joe McNamara voted no.

Also Tuesday, council approved a new 16-month contract with the Lucas County dog warden instead of a proposed three-year contract.

"I felt locking us in for three years would lock us in for $400,000 in overtime costs," said Councilman D. Michael Collins, who has criticized how much the city pays for after-hours dog-catcher calls and favors training police officers in animal control as a substitute means to handle stray-dog complaints.

"Three days in February, a Friday through Sunday, there were nine calls costing the city 9.16 hours and cash-only paid -- not including benefits -- was $1,117," Mr. Collins said.

That averages $121 an hour.

Overtime rates kick in after 4 p.m. weekdays and on weekends, the times when dog-catching services are most needed, he said.

Council also approved $723,000 in vehicle purchases for the city's Hoffman Road landfill, including two bulldozers, a compactor, pickup trucks, snow plows, and a sport utility vehicle.



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