Developer plans apartments near campus for UT students

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

A Texas developer has secured land near the University of Toledo and is planning a large “luxury apartment” complex for students.

JPI, Inc., of Irving, Tex., hopes to begin construction on its project, to be called Jefferson Commons, by May. University officials applauded the move, saying they want to see more students living on or near campus.

“We know we currently cannot meet the demand for on-campus housing,” Joe Brennan, university spokesman, said. “This sort of thing can really help enhance the campus experience.”

JPI has made a business of building residential communities for students near university campuses across the country. The company runs 14 Jefferson Commons complexes, most of them in southern cities.

But the company is planning an expansion into more northern cities. Along with Toledo, Jefferson Commons complexes are planned for the Ohio State University, Western Michigan University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Missouri.

“We’ve been looking north, and we’ve been examining Toledo for about a year,” said John Dinan, JPI’s senior vice president for development.

The company has signed a contract to purchase an unspecified number of acres along Dorr Street, west of Secor Road. That location would be a short walk from the western edge of UT’s Bancroft Street campus. JPI is doing environmental and market testing to decide whether to go ahead with the project, which would include roughly 200 units. Mr. Dinan said that rents for the units have not been determined.

UT President Vik Kapoor has repeatedly said he wants to make UT a more residential campus, and the university is expected to begin building dormitories in the next few years.

But even though Jefferson Commons would be off-campus, UT officials said they did not view the development as competition for their own plans.

“We welcome it, because it gives students another option,” Mr. Brennan said.

The university has room for 2,883 students on campus. Last year, about 300 students requested on-campus housing, but were rejected for lack of space. Mr. Brennan said about 7,000 UT students live within three miles of campus.

Other JPI projects have included amenities that students find attractive, including high-speed Internet connections, access to office equipment, and washers and dryers in each apartment.

If construction begins in May – and that would require zoning changes and environmental testing to go smoothly – Mr. Dinan said the complex could be open in time for the fall semester of 2001.

The company has tentatively scheduled a neighborhood meeting for Feb. 9 to discuss the project. A site for the meeting has not been determined.

Stadium architect recommended

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

A Lucas County committee recommended yesterday that a team led by HNTB Architects, a Kansas City firm, be put in charge of designing a new Mud Hens stadium.

“They have a real vision of what the Warehouse District can be,” Commissioner Harry Barlos said.

Mr. Barlos heads the 19-member committee that heard presentations from three firms seeking the Mud Hen contract. After 90 minutes of deliberations, the committee ranked HNTB as its first choice, above two other Kansas City firms, HOK Sports and Devine deFlon Yaeger Architects.

For the Mud Hens stadium, HNTB will be teaming up with The Collaborative, a local architecture firm, and Finkbeiner Pettis & Strout, a local engineering firm.

The ranking means that Tom Chema, the county’s consultant on the stadium project, will begin negotiating with HNTB officials on the cost of retaining the company’s services. Mr. Chema said he hopes the two sides will be able to reach a broad agreement on costs in the next five days.

HNTB has designed more than a dozen stadiums around the country; five of its minor-league parks open this spring. Among the new parks are a $14.7 million stadium in Dayton and a $26 million stadium in Louisville. It designed the stadium in Lansing that Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has said he would like the Mud Hens stadium to resemble.

Mr. Barlos said that HNTB’s proposal shows a stronger commitment to integrating the stadium into the Warehouse District.

“They showed a passionate interest in the urban landscape,” he said.

Although the firms were not asked to submit a full stadium design for yesterday’s presentations, HNTB presented conceptual sketches that integrated several Warehouse District buildings into the stadium’s design.

“This project impacts a huge part of downtown and the Warehouse District, two or three blocks in every direction,” said Robert Fessler, the project’s leader at The Collaborative. “We’re very excited.”

Mr. Fessler said his company would be in charge of interior design and landscaping, while HNTB will be lead architects on the stadium structure.

Mr. Chema said a stadium architect is usually paid between 6 and 9 per cent of the stadium’s construction cost. In the Mud Hens’ case, construction is expected to take up roughly $25 million of the project’s $37 million budget. He said that the firm hired probably will be paid “slightly more” than $1.5 million.

But county officials were quick to point out that all three firms made excellent presentations, and if Mr. Chema is unable to reach an acceptable agreement with HNTB, the county would be satisfied with selecting either of the other two.

“We couldn’t make a mistake here, because they’re all excellent firms,” Mr. Chema said.

HNTB is involved in another major Toledo project as a consultant on the design of the new I-280 Maumee River crossing.

The firm has done work on the Mud Hens project before. V/Gladieux Enterprises, the company that owns the Toledo Sports Arena, hired HNTB and The Collaborative to create a development proposal for a new stadium on the Sports Arena site and an arena on Summit Street downtown.

Mr. Chema eventually rejected the Sports Arena proposal in favor of the stadium’s current proposed site, between Monroe, Washington, Huron, and St. Clair streets.

The county commissioners are scheduled to make the final decision on which firm to hire on Jan. 25. Mr. Chema said that after the selection is made, the county will hold several public hearings to get input on the stadium.

Construction is scheduled to start in October, with work completed in time for the 2002 baseball season.

Panel considers hiring firm to evaluate port; Staff performance reviews unlikely

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 21

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority is preparing to hire a consulting firm to help the agency examine how it does business.

“I do believe we will need an outsider to help us through the process,” said James F. White, Jr., chairman of the port board’s strategic planning committee.

The committee is charged with rethinking the port’s operations and its goals. Yesterday, at the panel’s first meeting, board members said they want to start interviewing representatives from national consulting firms to see what they have to offer the port.

Several members said that the complexity of the agency’s operations make it difficult for the unpaid board members to perform a proper evaluation alone.

“There’s no way for us to really understand how the port is doing unless we have other situations and other experiences to compare it against,” said board member Bruce Baumhower.

The port authority oversees a variety of operations in Lucas County, including the Port of Toledo, Toledo Express Airport, and Central Union Plaza. It is designated by law as the county’s lead economic development agency, although it has transferred that responsibility to the Regional Growth Partnership.

The committee decided that the major focus of the strategic planning be the port board’s standing committees, such as the airport, seaport, and surface transportation panels. Mr. White said that each committee will be asked to evaluate the goals and objectives in its area of focus.

After discussion with consultants and other people who work with the agency, board members will unite the committee’s goals into a single document charting the port authority’s course over the next few years.

Mr. White said he will make a list of between five and seven national consulting firms qualified to do the work for the authority. From that list, he will choose three finalists and ask them to make presentations to the committee.

He mentioned McKinsey & Co. and Booz, Allen & Hamilton as possible candidates.

The group did not commit to hiring a consultant; Mr. White said that if “no acceptable candidates” can be found, or if the cost is too high, the full board could forgo the idea..

Board member George Ballas initially said he was unsure about a consultant. “I’m not sure someone from New York or New Orleans or Chicago or Miami can tell us how to run our business,” he said.

But other board members, led by Mr. White, argued for a consultant, and by the end of the meeting the group agreed unanimously to begin interviewing candidates.

“We know the Toledo scene better than anyone else, but a consultant would know what’s been tried elsewhere that we’re missing,” Mr. White said. “We don’t know the best practices. All we know are our practices.”

Board members did not say how much the agency would be willing to pay a consultant. They said private industry and the Regional Growth Partnership may be asked to contribute toward a consultant’s fee.

In 1992, the authority paid Mercer, a consultant firm, more than $200,000 to prepare the port’s strategic plan.

Mr. White said the committee’s work is unrestricted and could include anything from how the port board operates to how the airport is run.

“We want a complete evaluation of how the port works, starting at the top – and that’s the board,” he said. “We don’t want anything easy. We want the strategic plan to be a stretch for the entire agency.”

If hired, the consultant could be involved in much of that work, but it appears unlikely any hired firm would conduct performance evaluations on senior port staff.

Committee member Jerry Chabler has pushed for an outside evaluation for several months. Mr. Chabler has questioned the pay of some senior staff members and suggested some are under-performing.

“If everyone who works here is as good as [port President James Hartung] says, then let’s have an outsider come in and validate that,” he said.

But when Mr. Chabler broached the issue yesterday, he found little support from the other committee members.

“At my business, I wouldn’t hire a consultant to come in and tell me if my sales manager is doing a good job,” said J. Patrick Nicholson, port board vice chairman and chief executive officer of N-Viro International Corp. “That’s the job of the people in the company.”

“I would like to see an evaluation of the staff, not from a performance standpoint, but from a structure standpoint,” Mr. White said. “We may be able to better structure the staff. But it is up to us to evaluate our own people.”

Mr. Chabler, who had been one of the port authority’s most vocal critics before being appointed to the board this year, said he thinks the meeting went well. “I was impressed by what I heard,” he said. “Everyone is on the same page.”

Port board keeps Medlin, Nicholson as its leaders

By Joshua Benton and David Patch
Blade Staff Writers

Page 15

G. Ray Medlin was unanimously re-elected chairman of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority yesterday, with support coming from a surprising source.

Board member Jerry Chabler, who has been a vocal critic of Mr. Medlin in the past, made the motion to keep him in the post.

“I have a total respect for Ray Medlin,” Mr. Chabler said. “I’ve had a diversity of opinions with the chairman, but I think it’s all been very healthy. I think this is what the board needs.”

The two men have had less-than-cheerful things to say about one another over the last few months, with Mr. Medlin calling Mr. Chabler “needlessly divisive” and Mr. Chabler saying Mr. Medlin was “too tied to the old ways” at the port authority.

But at yesterday’s meeting, the last of 1999, the entire board seemed to put old grudges behind to relish what members consider to have been a successful year, despite declining traffic at the Port of Toledo and Toledo Express Airport.

In November, Lucas County voters renewed a 0.4-mill port authority levy that provides funding for regional economic development. Voters had rejected a similar levy in 1998 amid questions about the authority’s spending practices and accountability to Lucas County taxpayers.

“I appreciate the confidence of this board,” said Mr. Medlin, who was first elected board chairman in December, 1998. “If you don’t look at the way you do things, as they say, ‘You’ll always get what you always got.'”

J. Patrick Nicholson, who was re-elected by the board as vice chairman, agreed.

“We’ve got to think new ways,” he said. “We need a vision, more than anything else, to make the Great Lakes the economic heartland of the world.”

No other names were entered into nomination for the top two board posts.

Board member Thomas Palmer, who chaired the board’s nominating committee, said his committee had sought legal counsel to determine whether Mr. Medlin’s re-election would cause any legal or ethical problems.

On Nov. 24, Mr. Medlin was named economic development director of the city of Toledo. The port authority is charged with economic development for all of Lucas County, although it contracts that duty to the Regional Growth Partnership, and some government officials had questioned whether Mr. Medlin should hold both jobs at once.

Mr. Palmer said attorneys from the Cleveland firm Squire, Sanders, & Dempsey and the Toledo firm Spengler Nathanson reported that there was no legal conflict in Mr. Medlin holding the two positions.

“We looked very closely at this issue, because the public needs to see that we’re addressing these legitimate questions,” said Mr. Palmer, a lawyer. “All of us feel Ray has shown great leadership over the last year, and we need a continuation of that strong leadership.”

Mr. Palmer said the port authority, the city, and the county will request an opinion from the Ohio Ethics Commission to further examine the ethical issue. In the meantime, Mr. Medlin said he would abstain from discussing or voting on issues involving the city of Toledo. As an example, he cited issues involving Toledo Express, which is owned by the city but operated by the port authority.

Earlier in the meeting, the port board unanimously approved an $11.9 million operating budget for the upcoming year. The $500,000 increase over 1999 spending includes a $64,000 hike in the marketing budget for Toledo Express and a $300,000 allocation for dredging at the Port of Toledo and for buying land for a proposed U.S. 20A interchange on I-475/U.S. 23.

The board voted 12-1 to renew the port’s economic-development contract with the Regional Growth Partnership for five years for a fee of $1.35 million next year. Board member David Boston dissented on the grounds that the fee should be reduced because the RGP has amassed more than $600,000 in reserve funds.

“At a time when the port is scraping for capital dollars to meet federal matching funds for projects, we shouldn’t be giving the RGP money they don’t need,” Mr. Boston said.

In other business, the port board:

* Agreed to add 1,600 square feet to the 2,500 square feet of office space that Manitowoc Marine Group, Inc., leases from the port authority at the Toledo shipyard. Manitowoc plans to expand its Toledo Ship Repair Co. operations.

* Approved reimbursing FirstEnergy $29,373 for the port authority’s share of a recent environmental survey of land that the port authority and utility own in East Toledo.

* Appropriated $64,450 from federally transferred drug-forfeiture funds to pay for a new four-wheel-drive truck, portable radios, drug-awareness pamphlets for children, police-station improvements, and training and supplies. Alluding to a past controversy over a former airport director’s personal use of a similarly funded truck, Mr. Boston, the airport committee’s chairman, promised that the new vehicle “will be used for law-enforcement purposes.”

Port authority president James Hartung said the expenditures had been approved by representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Port board may boost marketing expenses

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 14

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority will nearly double the amount it spends to market Toledo Express Airport in 2000, if the port board adopts next year’s proposed operating budget.

The spending plan, debated at a meeting of the port board’s finance committee yesterday, raises the airport’s marketing budget to $170,000 from $100,000.

“We’ve got an uphill battle, and we need to stay in the public mind to keep competitive,” airport director Gary Quill said.

Toledo Express has experienced a substantial drop in traffic in 1999, with the number of departing passengers dropping 23.5 per cent from last year’s levels, according to statistics through October.

The biggest culprits were Delta Air Lines and AirTran Airways, which canceled their Toledo service last year. Delta ended its direct flights to Atlanta in October, 1998. AirTran canceled its Toledo-Orlando route eight months earlier.

But the last few months have seen several positive developments that have port leaders thinking the trend could be reversed.

Service to Atlanta returned to Toledo Express on Oct. 1 with the arrival of Atlantic Southeast Airlines. This month, American Eagle is introducing the use of 50-seat regional jets on its five daily flights to Chicago, replacing less comfortable turbo-prop planes.

“It makes sense to sell the airport when you’ve got good things like regional jets to sell,” port board member George Ballas said.

The airport has been running a marketing campaign since July, with print, radio, and TV advertisements. The extra money will allow the campaign to run year-round, Mr. Quill said.

“So many people fly through Detroit that you have to keep reminding people there’s an alternative here,” he said.

The marketing money is one of the relatively few changes in the 2000 budget. The full port board will consider the budget at its monthly meeting Friday morning.

The budget projects revenues of $12.02 million, against expenditures of $11.87 million. If those numbers hold, 2000 would be the sixth straight year the port finishes in the black. If it has to, the balance would be made up with port authority reserves.

Revenue and expenditure projections are up slightly less than 4 per cent over 1999’s budget. Contract services are projected to drop 17 per cent, mostly because legal costs should drop if the airport-noise lawsuit is resolved.

The budget includes the $1.35 million the port authority will pay to the Regional Growth Partnership to fund northwest Ohio’s lead economic development body.

That funding, along with $890,000 used for maintenance and operations at the airport and seaport, comes from the property tax levy Lucas County voters approved in November.

According to the document’s projections, the seaport is the port authority’s cash cow. It stands to take in $801,000 more than it spends in 2000. In contrast, the port’s airport and surface transportation divisions could lose nearly $284,000.

The budget includes a 3.9 per cent rise in personnel costs over 1999’s budgeted amount. That increase will allow an overall 3.5 per cent raise in the salaries of non-union personnel at the port.

James Hartung, port president, will determine how to allocate that money to individual employees.

The port uses a complex set of calculations, including performance evaluations and average salary ranges for similar positions nationwide, to determine the size of raises. Mr. Hartung said he doesn’t believe any of the increases will be higher than 4 or 5 per cent.

The calculation process does not cover Mr. Hartung’s salary. His salary, now $129,960, is reviewed by the port board every May.

Thinking split on Medlin role; Conflict feared if port chairman also is development chief

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 1

Several local officials and businessmen seem to have no problem with G. Ray Medlin, Jr., being chairman of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board and Toledo’s new development director.

“He’s bright, articulate, and high batteried,” said port board member George Ballas. “There won’t be any conflicts.”

But at least one Toledo councilman wants Mr. Medlin to have one job or the other – but not both.

“I just don’t see how that could not be a conflict,” Councilman C. Allan McConnell said yesterday. “I would just want to avoid the appearance of impropriety. I think if he takes the position with the city, he should resign from the port board.”

And the Ohio Ethics Commission has concerns that it could be a violation of state conflict of interest rules if he had both jobs.

Mr. Medlin, port board chairman, is under consideration for the Toledo development job. He is the executive director of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Health & Safety Fund.

That job is based in Las Vegas, and Mr. Medlin has said in the past he is looking for new employment that would not require him to be out of town as often.

Mr. Medlin, 51, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

He has had no paid experience in economic development, having spent the last 18 years working for a variety of union organizations in Toledo, Washington, and Las Vegas. But he has served on several area boards, and Mr. Finkbeiner said Mr. Medlin’s personal skills outweigh that lack of experience.

“Ray is a leader, first and foremost,” the mayor said. “He is one of the best, and has been for 10 years. He’s a big picture guy, a vision guy, a guy who likes big challenges.”

If he is hired by the city, his substantial role in the region’s economic development would grow.

In 1989, the port authority became, by law, the region’s lead economic development agency. Five years later, the port board created the Regional Growth Partnership to take over the job. Mr. Medlin was on the growth partnership board first in 1994, but left in 1997.

But many of the growth partnership’s projects still require the work of the port board, such as the issuance of bonds for construction projects. Some, like Mr. McConnell, who soon will leave council to take a seat on the Toledo Municipal Court bench, expressed concern that Mr. Medlin’s two jobs could cause conflicts of interest on some projects, like a new factory that could be located in Toledo or in a neighboring suburb.

At-large Councilman Gene Zmuda said he hopes “the mayor would make sure there weren’t any legal improprieties, given [Mr. Medlin’s] position as chairman of the port board. It is a question that needs to be answered. You cannot ignore the issue.”

“I think it’s an issue that he’s going to have to answer, and describe how he’ll deal with that situation,” said Bill Bostleman, president of The Bostleman Corp., a Maumee-based development and construction firm.

David Freel, executive director of the Ohio Ethics Commission, cautioned that he did not know the full details of Mr. Medlin’s case. But he said that “generally, there is a conflict under law that exists when you have a public official in one position and then in a second position with a body that contracts with a public agency.”

In other words, there may be a conflict because the city does business with the port authority, and Mr. Medlin “would be on both sides of the contract,” he said.

But he said that a potential conflict might be headed off – again, generally speaking – if the person in question were a formal representative of one body to the other. If Mr. Medlin was appointed by the city to the port board, a conflict might be avoided.

Meanwhile, Mr. Finkbeiner said he is down to two finalists for the job. Deborah Younger, named last week to be the city’s new neighborhood director, has been eliminated from consideration.

The only candidate left to challenge Mr. Medlin is Steven Rockwell, the executive director of the Federal Lands Reuse Authority of Bucks County in Warminster, Pa. Mr. Rockwell has led the redevelopment of a shuttered Navy base there into a technology center. The mayor said that Mr. Rockwell is under consideration for subordinate jobs in the city’s development department.

Mr. Medlin was appointed by the Lucas County commissioners in 1992, and reappointed by the county in 1996. The county names six members to the board, as does the city of Toledo. A 13th member is a joint appointment.

Mr. Freel said that he has spoken with city and port officials in the last week about Mr. Medlin’s case, but said that the Ethics Commission has not been asked for a formal opinion.

Mr. Finkbeiner said that, if a conflict between Mr. Medlin’s two positions ever arose, the mayor would simply ask him to abstain from voting on the issue.

But most port board members said they trust Mr. Medlin not to do anything underhanded.

“He comes in the front door, he puts his cards on the table, and he doesn’t have any hidden agendas,” said Mr. Ballas, who is a member of the growth partnership board.

“On its face, it really does appear to create some difficulties,” said port board member Doni Miller. “But there are mitigating factors. It’s a very strong board at the port, and they’re not going to allow any action that’s unduly influenced by outside forces.”

“I don’t see any problem at all,” said J. Patrick Nicholson, the port board’s vice chairman. “Quite frankly, I’d be delighted to just have him working here in Toledo, because sometimes it’s hard to reach him when he’s traveling all around the country.”

“I wouldn’t have a problem with it,” said port board member Mark Zyndorf, who is on the growth partnership’s board. “The reality is that port board members don’t have a daily handle on what the [growth partnership] is doing, so I don’t think it would be a conflict.”

Mr. Zyndorf said that if Mr. Medlin was still a member of the growth partnership board, “that would be a very different story.”

Port board member Opie Rollison said that the separation between the growth partnership and the port authority means there is no conflict between Mr. Medlin’s two jobs. “The port [authority] is a funding mechanism for the [growth] partnership, but we do not have direct control over the [growth partnership] or who they do business with,” he said.

“I would be more concerned if [growth partnership President and Chief Executive Officer] Don Jakeway was taking over the city job,” said Jerry Hayes, the acting director of the Defiance County economic development office. “I wouldn’t have any opposition to Ray taking the job.”

Sandy Isenberg, president of the Lucas County commissioners, said she is not sure if having the two jobs would be an ethics violation. She said that the county would check with Prosecutor Julia Bates to see if the hiring would be allowed, and said the Ohio Ethics Commission should be asked for a written opinion on the matter.

Ms. Isenberg said she does not know what development abilities Mr. Medlin has.

“Ray has a very dynamic personality, and I think that in any job he would take, he would do well,” Ms. Isenberg said. “But in the economic development area, I don’t know what his skills are.”

She said Mr. Medlin’s strength is his ability “to bring lots of people to the table, to work with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations, and to come to some sort of a consensus.”

Ms. Isenberg said she spoke to Mr. Medlin yesterday and told him: “Remember, you have a broader constituency than the city of Toledo on the port board, and I hope you remember that during your deliberations.”

Mr. Medlin’s term on the port board expires in July. Ms. Isenberg said being employed by the city would not hurt Mr. Medlin’s chance for reappointment.

Mr. Bostleman said he does not think Mr. Medlin’s labor background would be a hindrance in attracting businesses to the area.

Mr. Bostleman said the opposite might be true: that Mr. Medlin could help improve the image, held by some, that Toledo’s unions can be difficult to work with.

“He understands management and business well enough that he would be able to be a good go-between to really help sort those issues out in the minds of businessmen,” Mr. Bostleman said. “He would be a good person to have out front on those issues.”

Under the city charter, council would have to ratify Mr. Medlin’s appointment as permanent director of economic development. However, the mayor could name Mr. Medlin acting director without the consent of council, a position he could hold for up to a year.

Council would have to grant Mr. Medlin a residency waiver if he is hired. All city employees without waivers must live within the city limits. Mr. Medlin lives in Washington Township.

Blade staff writers Vanessa Gezari and Fritz Wenzel contributed to this report.

Port board sessions energized by conflict

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page A1

News Analysis

When the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority was under intense public scrutiny in 1998, one of the most damaging perceptions about its board was that it operated like an “old boys club,” with few disputes and debates over issues.

For example, during one six-month stretch in 1997 and 1998, the number of “yes” votes cast by board members outnumbered the “nos” 730 to zero.

But no matter how accurate that perception was then, it’s false now. The new port board, fresh off its levy victory earlier this month, is now home to sometimes angry disputes over policies and personalities.

“The openness and interaction is invigorating,” said Opie Rollison, the board’s newest member. “We’re putting everything on the table. I think the dynamics of the board have changed, and the disagreements are getting aired out.”

At the center of the latest dispute is board member Jerry Chabler, once one of the board’s most vocal critics.

As the agency determines how to begin a formal evaluation of the way it does business, Mr. Chabler is arguing with other board members over how thorough the evaluation should be.

Mr. Chabler says he is fighting for the taxpayers of Lucas County, who he says demand change.

“It’s their money being spent, and they should have someone to defend their interests and see that their money is being used as efficiently as possible,” he said. “I’m afraid that some of the other board members may have tried to hoodwink the voters and make them think that real change is on the way.”

But some of his fellow board members, including the board’s chairman and vice chairman, think he is a publicity hound with a political agenda and a vendetta against some of the port’s staff.

“It’s great for people to have diverse opinions and for there to be debate, and if Chabler did that I would welcome it,” said J. Patrick Nicholson, the board’s vice chairman. “But he needs to stop grandstanding and complaining when there’s no rational reason to complain.”

Much of the tension on the board has played out through the relationship between Mr. Chabler and G. Ray Medlin, Jr., the board’s chairman.

That they’re on the same board at all is remarkable, considering they were political enemies at the start of 1999. Mr. Medlin, then the newly elected port board chairman, was trying to improve the public face of the agency two months after voters soundly rejected a 0.4-mill port authority levy renewal. Mr. Chabler had been one of the levy’s biggest opponents who helped lead the campaign against it.

But, in part to improve perceptions of the agency, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner appointed Mr. Chabler to the port board in July.

At the time, the mayor said it is “important that the majority of voters opposed to the levy last time feel that some of their concerns will be addressed by someone who also opposed the levy.”

Once on the port board, Mr. Chabler worked to get the levy passed, an effort that proved successful when voters approved it overwhelmingly on Nov. 2.

Friday’s port board meeting was the first after the levy victory, and after a few self-congratulations, the board got to one of the most important issues it will deal with: the creation of a strategic plan to lead the agency into the next century.

Mr. Chabler asked Mr. Medlin a series of pointed questions aimed at implying that the chairman was trying to limit the scope of the review. Specifically, Mr. Chabler wants to hire an outside consulting firm to evaluate the performance of current port staff members, which he thinks has been poor.

Mr. Medlin was clearly upset at the suggestion that he would limit the review’s scope. He said he believes reviewing staff performance is the job of port President James Hartung, but that if the board wanted such a review, he would not block it. “We all want what’s best for the port,” he said. “I have the right to an opinion, and sometimes I don’t think you think I have that right.”

When asked about Mr. Chabler’s statements after the port board meeting, Mr. Medlin used a common expletive to respond: “I don’t want to dignify Chabler’s [comments] with a response, and you can quote me on that.”

Mr. Medlin said he welcomes constructive criticism from Mr. Chabler, but “he is being needlessly divisive, and that’s not helpful.”

Mr. Chabler said that he is concerned that some of the board’s members may not be fully committed to changing the port’s ways.

“I’m getting concerned that the voters might have been fooled,” he said. “I think some people on the board are reading the levy’s passing as a vote of confidence. It wasn’t a vote of confidence. It was a mandate for change, and I think some people might not get that.”

“Show me one person on this board who isn’t committed to making the changes needed to make this the best port authority in the country, and I’ll eat my hat,” Mr. Nicholson said.

Mr. Nicholson said the dispute isn’t between Mr. Chabler and Mr. Medlin: “It’s between Chabler and the whole board.”

But several board members said that they were not troubled by Mr. Chabler’s activities.

“This kind of debate is the best way to flush things out, and it doesn’t bother me,” Mr. Rollison said. “Everything’s out there for discussion.” He said that he would like to see an external staff review as long as “it doesn’t become a witch hunt.”

Jim White, Jr., who leads the committee that will decide how the review will take place, said that Mr. Chabler’s comments were not objectionable. “He has his style and I have my style,” he said. “We’re all adults, we’re all mature, and we all have the same goal in mind. I don’t mind if he wants to air out his views.”

Port board panel to consider scope of review

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority wants to evaluate the way it does business, and yesterday its board chairman picked the people who will be in charge of the process – but not without some controversy over how thorough the evaluation will be.

Chairman G. Ray Medlin, Jr., named James F. White, Jr., head of the new strategic management plan committee. Mr. White and five other board members will be charged with figuring out how to evaluate the agency, including whether to bring in an outside consultant.

“We want an objective look at how we do things now, and a plan and a vision on how we can change in the next century,” Mr. Medlin said.

George Ballas was named the committee’s vice chairman. Others on the committee are J. Patrick Nicholson, Bruce Baumhower, Thomas Palmer, and Jerry Chabler.

Over the last several years, the port authority has been hit by allegations of mismanagement and lavish spending, criticism that contributed to the 1998 defeat of a 0.4-mill port authority levy renewal.

In the last year, port officials have made an effort to improve their public image and express a willingness to examine the authority’s methods of doing business. When the levy went before voters again on Nov. 2, it passed easily.

Over the next few months, the new committee will meet to determine if an outside review of the authority is necessary. The committee will report its findings back to the full board sometime next spring; the board will then decide what action to take.

Mr. White said he estimates the committee’s work will take three to four months. “I think we understand what our charge is and that we’ll be able to find a good process to look forward,” Mr. White said.

But heated talk arose at yesterday’s meeting when Mr. Chabler challenged Mr. Medlin over the scope of the potential outside review.

Mr. Chabler, who was appointed to the board in July after being a vocal critic of the agency, wants the review to include evaluations of the port authority’s senior staff.

“You need an external review if you want objectivity,” Mr. Chabler said. “If you have [port authority President Jim] Hartung reviewing his own employees, he wants to make them look good so he can look good.”

At the meeting, Mr. Chabler read a portion of a letter Mr. Medlin wrote to a Toledoan in response to a letter published in The Blade’s Readers Forum: “Among the principal responsibilities of the president is to … evaluate the effectiveness of the staff. For the board or its president to abrogate its responsibility would be an extraordinary contradiction to good business practice.”

Mr. Chabler asked the chairman if his statement meant he would not allow an outside staff evaluation. Somewhat angrily, Mr. Medlin said the committee would be able to make that decision on its own.

“I have the right to an opinion, and sometimes I don’t think you think I have that right,” Mr. Medlin said to Mr. Chabler sternly. “I think this is a matter for you to take up with the committee, not in this forum.”

“I don’t believe you answered my question,” Mr. Chabler parried.

Mr. Medlin previously has said that having consultants review the performances of senior staff could turn into a “witch hunt” based on vendettas against certain staff members, including Mr. Hartung.

After the meeting, Mr. Chabler said at least six members of the port authority’s senior staff make more than the $75,000 salary of Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, and that with salaries that high, staff members deserve external scrutiny.

Mr. White said the idea of an external staff review will be debated within the committee.

“As far as I’m concerned, everything is on the table,” Mr. White said. “There are no limits on the scope of our work.”

Among the topics Mr. Medlin said might be included in the review: the authority’s relationship with the Regional Growth Partnership and local governments, and the organization of port staff.

He said he would be willing to consider hiring an outside consulting firm – “the very best professionals, people who could not be influenced by anyone in this community or on this board.”

“Any operation has to understand that change is a part of everyday life,” he said. “We just need to separate change for the right reasons from change for change’s sake.”

Finkbeiner promotes 2 in latest staff shakeup

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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Mayor Carty Finkbeiner made two changes to Toledo’s management team yesterday, adding a member to his executive staff and promoting the housing commissioner to neighborhoods director.

Effective Nov. 29, Anthony Reams will become an assistant chief operating officer. The city’s housing commissioner, Deborah Younger, will take over Mr. Reams’s job of neighborhoods director.

“We are not standing on our laurels,” the mayor said. “We’re continuing to fine-tune the administration to make it better.”

Mr. Reams will become the fourth member of the mayor’s top executive team, joining Dan Hiskey, the chief operating officer, Mike Justen, an assistant chief operating officer, and Arturo Quintero, the mayor’s executive officer. Mr. Justen and Mr. Reams will each oversee six of the city’s 12 major departments.

Mr. Reams, 52, has been with the city for 13 years in a variety of positions, including commissioner of streets, bridges, and harbor, public service director, and chief operating officer.

In February, Mr. Reams drew the ire of the mayor, who cut his pay from $88,500 to $80,000 because he failed to meet performance standards as neighborhoods director. But Mr. Finkbeiner gave back half of the pay cut in July.

With his promotion, Mr. Reams’s pay will return to its original level, $88,500 a year.

“He has shown real leadership skills and has done a terrific job,” the mayor said.

Ms. Younger, 39, joined city government in October, 1998, as housing commissioner. Previously, she had been an administrator in the neighborhoods development division in the city of Columbus. Recently, she applied for the vacant economic development director position, but was instead given the neighborhoods job.

Ms. Younger’s salary will be $85,000. Her salary as housing commissioner was $69,500.

Port levy campaign has raised $106,850; Local firms respond to development need

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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With funding for the region’s lead economic development agency threatened, local corporations have stepped up with big bucks of their own.

Led by giants like the Dana Corp., Owens Corning, and MidAm Bank, the campaign to renew the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority’s 0.4-mill levy has raised $106,850 in 1999, according to campaign finance reports filed this week. That’s more than twice what the campaign had raised at this point last year. More than 90 per cent of the money has been from donations of $1,000 or more.

Voters go to the polls Nov. 2 to decide whether to renew the levy, which raises $2.2 million annually and expires at the end of the year. When given the chance to renew it in 1998, voters rejected it, 55 per cent to 45 per cent.

Most of the levy money – $1.45 million – is used to fund the port authority’s economic development arm, the Regional Growth Partnership, whose aim is to increase economic activity in the Toledo area.

The $1.45 million makes up three-quarters of the growth partnership’s annual budget. The rest goes to the port authority.

If renewed, the property tax would cost the owner of a $70,000 home $7.30 annually. A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

Last year, pro-levy forces had raised only $51,000 at this stage of the election cycle.

Many of this year’s large donors have connections to the port authority or the growth partnership, either through board members or business links.

N-Viro International Corp., the company of port board’s vice-chairman, J. Patrick Nicholson, gave $2,000.

Dunbar Mechanical, Inc., gave $1,500. Its owner, Harlton “Harley” Dunbar, is a member of the growth partnership board.

TolTest, Inc., a construction and environmental testing firm, gave $2,000

Its former owner, Bill Boyle, is a former member of the port board. Former TolTest President Jerry Chabler is a current port board member.

The law firm of Spengler Nathanson, which does legal work for the port authority, contributed $3,000 to the levy campaign.

Hart Associates, the Maumee-based public relations company that is helping run this year’s campaign, gave $1,000.

According to the report filed with the Lucas County board of elections, the port authority campaign had $4,631 left over from last year’s unsuccessful campaign.

So far this year, it has spent $47,885.95, with more than $40,000 going to Hart Associates.

The campaign has more than $63,000 remaining on hand for future media buys and campaign expenses.

The report also states that the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce forgave a $15,500 loan it gave the campaign two weeks before last year’s levy election.

The chamber also gave the campaign a contribution of $10,000, this year’s largest.

Levy campaign co-chairmen, Thomas Palmer and Lloyd Mahaffey, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The following companies and organizations gave $1,000 or more, according to the report:

* $10,000: Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce.

* $5,000: Dana Corp., Fifth Third Bank political action committee, S.E. Johnson Cos., Owens Corning, KeyBank National Association, Home Builders Association of Greater Toledo, MidAm Bank, and National City Bank.

* $3,000: Spengler Nathanson and Gerken Paving.

* $2,500: Realtors political action committee, Lathrop Co., GEM Industrial, Inc., and National City Bank Investments.

* $2,000: TolTest, Inc., Port Lawrence Title & Trust, Capital Bank, N-Viro International Corp., HCR ManorCare, Inc., and Toledo Molding & Die, Inc.

* $1,500: Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, Dunbar Mechanical, Inc., Romanoff Electric Corp., Mechanical Contractors Association of Northwest Ohio, Skillcraft Systems of Toledo.

* $1,000: A.A. Boos & Sons, Brooks Insurance Agency, Laibe Electric Co., Pilkington Libbey-Owens-Ford, Service Products Buildings, Inc., Mosser Construction, Kuhlman Corp., Auburndale Co., Danberry National Ltd., Aeroquip-Vickers, Inc., and Hart Associates.