Mayor Mike Bell met Thursday with some residents of the Collins Park Avenue area where the city has tried to buy up properties for a water plant expansion, while one councilman said the mayor went out of his way to keep attendance low.
Mr. Bell said earlier in the day that he wanted to meet with the neighbors directly to quell concerns that the city was aggressively going after their property. This week City Council revoked a $700,000 appropriation to buy properties because of complaints from the East Toledo community.
Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said the meeting involved a core group including retired local priest the Rev. Frank Eckart, Lucas County public policy chief Peter Ujvagi, who lives in East Toledo, and six property owners.
“We’re going to continue talking to folks, refine our plans, and then decide where to go from there,” Mr. Herwat said. “There will be ongoing discussions with the small working group, and there will be another general meeting as well.”
He said there was no immediate plan to ask for reinstatement of the $700,000 appropriation, and said neighbors were assured there was no plan for eminent domain.
At-large Councilman George Sarantou said the mayor did not tell council when and where the meeting would be, and said he was suspicious that the meeting was held in the secure location of the water treatment plant.
“I’m bothered that council wasn’t notified of the time and place of the meeting,” Mr. Sarantou said. “I certainly support the water plant expansion, but I think they’re creating more problems by being so secretive.”
Mr. Herwat said council members were told the meeting would be Thursday and were advised to provide notice if they wanted to attend because of the high level of security at the East Toledo water treatment plant. And he said the plant was chosen as the location so the neighbors could be given a tour and shown the need for the expansion.
On Tuesday, council voted 11-1 to disappropriate $700,000 to buy homes. Mr. Herwat said six properties have been purchased and another two or three were in negotiation. Twenty-eight homes were targeted for expansion in the project.
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