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Published: Wednesday, 4/17/2013

Toledo council, mayor honor Rogers basketball team

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Fresh off his trade mission to Germany, a jet-lagged Toledo Mayor Mike Bell strolled into City Council chambers Tuesday afternoon just in time to join councilmen in a brief ceremony to recognize the Rogers High School boys basketball team for being the runner-up in the Division I state championship March 23.

“You did yourselves proud. You all played with your hearts. It was appreciated,” Mayor Bell said to the team and its coaches near the beginning of the council’s bi-weekly meeting.

Rogers lost to Mentor High School 76-67 in the state final.

Others gave similar plaudits. “That was a fantastic run. You demonstrated sportsmanship and core values. You did the city proud,” Councilman Tyrone Riley said.

Mr. Bell, who got back to Toledo late Monday night, stayed around to be part of a reception line for the Rogers players and their coaches. He was photographed with others, from a group of Latino scholarship winners to officials there to designate this week as National Library Week and this month as Minority Health Month.

Then, Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat sat in for him for what turned out to be a meeting of mostly routine housekeeping items.

Perhaps the most noteworthy was council’s approval for $380,000 in capital improvement funds for the police department’s so-called “data-driven policing project,” one in which Chief Derrick Diggs wants to invest in more computer software to help predict where hotspots of crime are developing.

Pushed by Chief Diggs and other members of the Bell administration to help compensate for staffing losses with better crime-fighting technology, the project is to make better use of information streamed into the safety building by 74 surveillance cameras the police department has installed high off the ground. The cameras are the centerpiece of the department’s $1.6 million “sky cop” program.

Councilman D. Michael Collins chairs the committee where the request sat since late January. He followed through on a commitment he made last week to bring the proposal to the full council for a vote.

Mr. Collins earlier had some reservations about how reliable the data was, based on reports of an erratic signal from an east-side camera, but said, following a presentation last week, those concerns were addressed. Officers assured him the fix required only a simple rerouting of the signal around obstructions, such as trees and buildings. The police department eventually plans to install 150 to 160 cameras in public viewing areas around the city.

Another Bell administration priority — its plan to fix up the former Leverette Middle School’s gymnasium at a cost of $250,000 for Police Athletic League programs — was tabled until the April 30 meeting. City administrators asked for the extra time last week to work out a possible deal with Toledo Public Schools for an ownership transfer. The city wants to take possession of the gym, but doesn’t have money set aside to buy it. A transfer would make it easier for funds to be allocated for renovation, councilmen have said.

Mr. Collins suggested at Tuesday’s meeting that councilmen tour the site before April 30. Mr. Herwat agreed to set that up.

The likelihood of higher water rates was discussed briefly.

Council President Paula Hicks-Hudson encouraged residents to attend a meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday in which the city plans to discuss the infrastructure needs driving the rate-increase proposal. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency will participate in that meeting, Mr. Herwat said.

Toledo is contemplating a rate increase to comply with Ohio EPA orders for overdue improvements to the city’s Collins Park water-treatment plant.

Ms. Hicks-Hudson said the city risks boil-water advisories if the improvements, from roof repairs to leaky pipes, aren’t made.

Local Tea Party activists have called for a performance audit.

Any rate increases would have an effective date of Jan. 1, Mr. Herwat said.

The Bell administration has proposed annual rate increases of more than 13 percent for four years and 4.5 percent in 2018 to make up for a funding shortfall.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.



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