Operators urge delay in shift of 911 system to Toledo

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 17

About a dozen 911 operators being laid off say the decentralization of their system could ring in the new year with chaos, danger, and disaster.

But Toledo police say the switch should go off without a hitch.

The war of words, of which the latest round took place at last night’s meeting of council’s public safety committee, is over the planned Jan. 2 transfer of the area’s 911 system from Lucas County to city control.

On that date, calls previously answered by a countywide system will be answered by staff in each of the county’s municipalities.

The project’s aim is reducing the response time for emergencies. Lucas County’s other cities instituted their local systems earlier this year without incident.

But Toledo’s transfer, first planned in 1995 and approved by voters in November, 1996, has been fraught with delays.

For example, by month’s end, 911 system operators were supposed to have a permanent home, with phone lines and computer systems installed and operational. But a series of delays have meant that the operators will be crunched into the Alarm Building at 711 Adams St.

Their work stations will only be delivered next week, with a round of testing to follow. Officials say it could be two years before a permanent home can be found for the operators.

Veteran 911 workers said that rush could leave an already frazzled system paralyzed and asked council to consider postponing the switch date.

“It’s not going to serve anyone to meet an artificial deadline if we’re not ready,” operator Myra Cava naugh said. “We’re not asking you to stop this [transfer] permanently. Just stop it until it’s ready.”

But Chief Gerald Galvin said that only a “natural disaster” could stop the Alarm Building arrangement from being operational by year’s end.

“My career and reputation are on the line when I say we will be able to handle this,” he said.

As a part of the transfer, all county operators and supervisors were laid off.

Most were hired to staff the city’s 911 operation, or hired by the Lucas County sheriff’s department to staff its operation, which will cover the un incorporated areas.

Yesterday, Sheriff James Telb announced that his office has hired two more operators, reducing the number of employees still without work to three.

At the request of committee head Jeanine Perry, Chief Galvin said he will update council on the switch’s progress before its next meeting Dec. 22.

Council member Edna Brown had several contentious exchanges with the operators and their attorney, Peter Wagner, over what she considered fear-mongering tactics.

She said Mr. Wagner stressed that the 911 system would not have a significant backup system after the change, when, according to Chief Galvin, the current system does not have one either.

“If you think we need a backup system, just say so,” she said. “Don’t try to scare me.”

Former city manager Hawkey is dismissed from his Pasadena job

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 21

PASADENA, CALIF. — Seven years after he left Ohio, a former Toledo city manager is facing unemployment.

Pasadena City Manager Phil Hawkey, whose four years in Toledo were marked by controversy, will not be allowed to serve out the remainder of his contract, the city’s council decided Monday.

The seven-member council voted 4-2, with one council member absent, to begin the search for a new city manager. The vote was taken less than three weeks after council voted 4-3 to keep Mr. Hawkey until his current contract expired in 1999.

“I feel totally ambushed,” Mr. Hawkey, 51, said at the meeting, according to the Pasadena Star-News. “I do believe my legal rights have been violated.”

Mr. Hawkey arrived in Toledo in 1986 after serving as deputy city manager of Cincinnati. He arrived with a reputation as an extremely knowledgeable public administrator, but soon began warring with many powerful, entrenched politicians in Toledo.

In his most controversial move, Mr. Hawkey engineered the city’s secret plan to spend $14.35 million to buy about 1,200 acres of land in Monclova and Springfield townships. The idea was to boost Toledo’s tax base, but it ended in a failed attempt to annex the land.

Two years after Mr. Hawkey’s departure, Toledo voters amended the city’s charter to switch from a city-manager to a strong-mayor form of government.

In October, Pasadena organized a charter-reform commission aimed at rethinking the way the city’s government is organized.

Monday’s vote authorized a search to begin next month for a new city manager. Mr. Hawkey will retain his job until his replacement is found.

In the motion announcing the search, the council said the decision was “for reasons having to do with his performance evaluation.”

Larry Wilson, editor of the Star-News, said Mr. Hawkey’s dismissal isn’t easy to explain.

“The four council members all have different reasons for being against him,” he said. “One believes he is not pro-business enough. Another thinks he’s too pro-business and pro-development.”

In April, council voted to extend Mr. Hawkey’s contract to October, 1999, by a 5-2 vote. But in May, a new councilman, Sid Tyler, took office, replacing a pro-Hawkey vote.

When council voted on Nov. 22 whether to let Mr. Hawkey complete his term, one council member, Joyce Streator, changed her mind from the April vote, but Mr. Hawkey still eked out a 4-3 victory with Mr. Tyler’s support.

But Monday, Mr. Tyler made the motion resulting in the vote on the city manager’s future. Mr. Tyler voted against him, and Mr. Hawkey was on the losing end. Mr. Tyler had no comment yesterday.

During his seven years in the position, Mr. Hawkey has faced opposition from Pasadena city leaders on a variety of issues, including not informing city council when the then-police chief was under investigation by the district attorney’s office.

His initial hiring in Pasadena was opposed by some African-Americans who said Mr. Hawkey discriminated against minorities in his hiring and firing practices while in Toledo.

The Rev. Floyd Rose flew from Ohio to Pasadena during the hiring process to make a presentation on what he called Mr. Hawkey’s racially discriminatory acts.

Mr. Hawkey is paid $148,000 a year and is in charge of 1,800 city employees. He said the council’s move is a betrayal.

“I pledged to confront the difficult issues,” Mr. Hawkey told the Pasadena council Monday. “I passed up opportunities.

“I didn’t pursue opportunities that were made available to me, thinking I had made a commitment to the city council,” he said.

Rick Cole, a former Pasadena mayor who voted against hiring Mr. Hawkey when he was a councilman in 1991, applauded his performance the last seven years.

Pasadena fared well in Southern California’s economic downturn in the early 1990s, and the city has won numerous national awards for workforce diversity and urban planning, he said.

“It’s quite an extraordinary record,” he said.

Mr. Hawkey was unavailable for comment.

Toledo considered for federal program

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 15

Toledo is one of 40 finalists for a federal program that could make it easier for the city to reclaim polluted industrial land, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner plans to announce today.

Early next year, 10 of those cities will be named Brownfields Showcase Communities, making them eligible for coordinated assistance from 15 federal agencies in putting new development on abandoned land.

“This is a terrific opportunity for Toledo to show the nation what it can do in brownfield redevelopment,” said Bill Burkett, project manager for the city’s application.

Vice President Gore announced the program in May. Federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, hope to use the chosen cities as models for the rest of the United States.

More than 230 cities applied for the designation. The city will file its application for the finalist competition with the EPA today.

In the city’s application, Mr. Burkett said Toledo’s focus in redevelopment would be 350 acres immediately west of the Stickney Avenue site chosen for the new Jeep plant.

“Those areas will have to be reconsidered strongly for development, in light of what Chrysler has done,” he said.

Developing the area would require the city and private industry to address several environmental concerns, including PCB-contaminated sediment in the Ottawa River and stockpiled tires on the site.

Mr. Burkett said Toledo’s history of public/private partnerships in brownfield development – notably, the Jeep plant and Owens Corning’s new world headquarters – put the city in a good position to achieve the designation.

“I think we’ve done very well in our past work, and I think that bodes well for us,” he said. “We’re on a roll.”

Brownfield Showcase Communities will receive financial, technical, and administrative assistance in developing abandoned industrial sites.

Although there is not a grant component to the designation, Mr. Burkett said cities with the title would be given special consideration in allocation of federal funds.

“It’s usually a lot easier to get money for roads leading out to new development than to get money to redo old development,” he said.

The state of Ohio, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lucas County, Owens Corning, and about a dozen other groups have written letters of support on Toledo’s behalf to the federal government.

Other regional finalists include Kenosha, Wis.; Chicago; Pittsburgh, and Louisville.

The winners will be announced early next year.

School nurses debate may end

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

After months of squabbling, the debate over funding for Toledo school nurses could come to an end tomorrow.

On the agenda for tomorrow’s city council meeting is an ordinance that, if passed, would allocate $50,000 from city coffers to help pay for seven nurses in Toledo elementary schools – 11 months and three council votes after Mayor Carty Finkbeiner announced he was cutting the program from the city’s budget.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time,” Councilman Peter Gerken said. “The mayor has fi-nally understood how serious we are about this.”

The saga began in January, when, facing a budget shortfall, the Finkbeiner administration announced it would no longer pay for the program, shifting responsibility to Toledo Public Schools.

The city spent about $327,000 last year on the nurses. The school district is projected to run a $7-million surplus this year.

Days before five nurses were to be laid off, three area health-care systems – ProMedica Health Systems, Mercy Health Partners, and the Medical College of Ohio – stepped in and agreed to split the bill with the school district.

In a move to help the hospitals and schools cover this year’s tab, council approved spending $50,000 on the nurses on July 8. Ten days later, Mr. Finkbeiner vetoed the proposal.

On July 23, council overrode the veto 10-2. But Mr. Finkbeiner ignored council’s vote, saying he would not pay for the program because council had allocated the funds from a nonexistent source, a city account that did not have any money to pay the bill.

While the city’s law department said the mayor’s move was legal, it haunted Mr. Finkbeiner throughout his re-election campaign.

At its last meeting, Mr. Gerken proposed a plan that could have made an end around the mayor’s wishes. The ordinance he introduced would force the city’s finance department to re-estimate the amount of money council is allowed to spend this year.

A strong economy has increased income tax revenues, Mr. Gerken said, and that extra revenue should be available for council to spend as it wishes – including on school nurses.

The bill passed council’s finance committee 5-2, but the full body held back from taking action on it in hopes of a compromise with the mayor.

“That was the last straw of the mayor’s resistance,” Mr. Gerken said. “When we finally challenged the finance department, he understood what we wanted.”

Last week, the administration identified another source of funding in city government that could provide the $50,000 council approved.

The new source: the health department’s rodent control program, which has not spent all of the money council allocated to it in this year’s budget.

Mr. Gerken painted the battle as a victory for council.

“This was the administration’s way of capitulating to the will of council,” he said. “It was a little bit of political gamesmanship.”

The bill to determine the city’s income is on the council’s agenda this week, but Mr. Gerken said he did not expect the body to act on it.

In other business, council will consider:

* An ordinance that would revise Toledo’s domestic violence law to match a new, tougher state law.

The revision expands the definition of who is a family member for purposes of prosecution and requires local authorities to enforce restraining orders issued in other states.

* Changing the speed limit on Airport Highway between Reynolds and Byrne roads to 45 mph. The current speed limit is 40 mph between Byrne and Angola Road, but 50 mph between Angola and Reynolds.

* Authorizing a $250,000 economic development loan to High Tech Packaging, Inc. The funds would be used to build a 200,000-square-foot facility. The company says the growth will create at least 150 new jobs.

Council will also consider spending $150,000 in capital improvement program funds to improve utility lines at the site.

* Authorizing a $150,000 loan to J & S Machine Products for a new facility in East Toledo. The loan would help create at least 10 new jobs, company officials said.

* Installing traffic signals outside Maumee Valley Country Day School at Glendale Avenue and a Wendy’s restaurant on Monroe Street near Talmadge Road.

How solid waste district will meet recycling requirements is debated

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 22

Toledo will have to wait at least one more year for citywide drop-off recycling, officials said yesterday.

But some Lucas County municipalities are saying they don’t want to have to pay for recycling to make up for Toledo’s lack of action.

The debate surrounds the way the Lucas County solid waste district will meet state requirements that 25 per cent of the district’s waste must be recycled by 2000. In March, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency told the district it was violating those rules because Toledo had not expanded its recycling program as planned.

A solid waste district report presented at the county commissioners’ meeting yesterday outlines Toledo’s options for contributing to the 25 per cent goal and how much each of those options would cost the rest of the county.

Toledo runs a small pilot curbside program, covering almost 20,000 households. It recycles 2,100 tons a year.

But with that small contribution, the county is still about 21,000 tons a year short of the state recycling requirement.

The county’s plan in 1995 assumed Toledo would take the curbside program citywide at a projected cost of nearly $2 million.

The city never did, “strictly because of budgetary constraints,” said Steven Hamilton, city solid waste commissioner.

Last year, the city division of solid waste proposed replacing the curbside program with a network of 30 drop-off points. Mr. Hamilton said the drop-off points could generate more than 10,000 tons of recyclables, almost the same total tonnage that he said a curbside program could bring in.

But the district’s report issued yesterday said that a full-service curbside program would bring in just under 18,000 tons a year and estimated a drop-off system would bring in only 8,000 to 10,000 tons.

Under the program the district report labels the most likely for Toledo, the city would recycle 8,250 tons of material annually, which is 6,150 tons more than it does now, at an annual cost of $495,000.

But that tonnage still wouldn’t meet Ohio EPA requirements. The district would have to recycle 13,245 additional tons of ma terial at an added cost of $400,000 a year.

And, county households and apartment complexes would have to chip in about $650,000 in fees for recycling service.

If implemented, the plan would give the solid waste district a $542,000 shortfall over the next five years.

“We aren’t sure where that financing will come from,” John Minear, solid waste district coordinator, said.

He said the district hopes the city would pick up the costs, because the recycling shortfall would be partially responsible for the district’s excess cost.

But if Toledo refuses to pay, he said, the next alternative would be to raise the fees that all Lucas County municipalities pay when they dump garbage at district landfills. That possibility has some officials worried.

“The last option is increasing fees, but we need to keep that as an opening,” commissioner Mark Pietrykowski said. “We’re going to have to look at a lot of different options.”

Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough said he hopes Toledo will pay its fair share.

“We expect Sylvania to be indemnified from any additional costs,” he said.

Mr. Minear said a 60-cent increase in the current $2-a-ton dump fee would cover the shortfall. Mr. Pietrykowski said Toledo should follow the lead of other Lucas County municipalities and commit to recycling.

“The smaller communities have already made the decision to go ahead with recycling programs. They’ve made the commitment,” he said. “Toledo needs to take that step.”

Along with word from the Ohio EPA, Toledo is awaiting the results of a study by the Corporation for Effective Government, a nonprofit group that is examining the division of solid waste for inefficiencies. Its report, which will include recommendations on the recycling issue, will be concluded by March, Mr. Hamilton said.

Zoo fence move, new Home Depot get panel’s nod

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 18

Despite protests from neighbors, a fence at the Toledo Zoo and a Home Depot on Secor Road moved one step closer to going up as planned.

Toledo’s plan commission approved the two projects yesterday. But city council must make the final approval.

In the zoo project, an 8-foot-tall, 750-foot-long fence would be moved about 35 feet closer to Amherst Drive. Residents said that moving the fence would wipe out a grassy area that generations have used as a public park.

Project engineer George Oravecz said the move will create space for the zoo’s expansion in 2001. A horticultural building and the zoo’s formal gardens will be moved to the space.

Project opponents said the space, which the zoo owns, has been an integral part of the neighborhood for decades.

“The neighborhood’s probably used that space for 100 years,” said William Kaiser, who often plays Frisbee with his golden retriever in the lot.

“That space is the fabric of the neighborhood,” Amherst Drive resident Joe Manzoni said.

Others criticized the zoo’s administrators for not being open to discussion about the fence during community meetings.

“There has never been a discussion,” resident Pete Field said. “It’s always been, ‘Here’s what’s happening. Like it.'”

But Mr. Oravecz said the zoo had been up front with residents.

“The fact remains that the Toledo Zoological Society owns the property,” he said.

Before approving the zoo’s fence, commissioner Robert Savage amended its application to stop the zoo from putting barbed wire on the fence’s top, which it had planned to do.

All portions of the fence must be at least 25 feet from the street, commissioners ruled.

The zoo had planned for a fence that is between 15 and 25 feet from the street.

The commission approved the preliminary drawings of a Home Depot over residents’ concerns that the store could damage the neighborhood’s character.

Commission chairman Dick Meyers amended the commission’s requirements on the project to make Home Depot present its final plans to the commission for approval next month before construction can begin.

A citizen’s committee formed by council member Tina Wozniak Skeldon will meet with store officials next week and report to the commission at its next meeting.

The store would be in Ms. Skeldon’s district.

Toledo council’s planning committee approved the Home Depot project Nov. 26, and the zoo project will go before the committee Wednesday.

Planners to consider 2 contested proposals

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 19

Toledo’s plan commission will consider two of the city’s contentious construction debates today: a proposed Home Depot on Secor Road and an eight-foot-high fence the Toledo Zoo wants to build near Amherst Drive.

Developers submitted preliminary site drawings for the Home Depot store for commissioners to consider.

Those plans must be approved for a zoning change the commission approved Nov. 6 to happen.

The proposed store, in the Westgate Shopping Center area near Central Avenue, would cover 130,000 square feet on a 15-acre site. It includes the former Best Products, Inc., store and would require that eight apartment buildings be torn down.

Home Depot must get permission from city council before starting construction. Council’s planning committee voted to approve the zoning change Nov. 26, and the full body will consider the matter at its Dec. 9 meeting.

Home Depot, Inc., an Atlanta-based retailer, already has a store on Airport Highway.

The commission will consider a proposal to amend the Toledo Zoo’s special-use permit to allow construction of a barbed-wire fence on zoo-owned property off Amherst.

Zoo officials maintain that the fence is necessary to meet federal security requirements. But neighborhood residents claim the fence would destroy a grassy space used as a buffer between the zoo and local homes. It serves as a park for some neighborhood children.

The plan commission meets at 1 p.m. at One Government Center.

Consultants to devise master plan for city

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 17

A Louisville-based consulting firm will head the project that will define where and how Toledo grows in the next two decades.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said yesterday the Corradino Group will be lead consultant on the Toledo 20/20 Comprehensive Plan, the first major revision of the city’s master land-use plan in nearly 50 years.

“What we’re doing will lay the foundation for orderly growth for years and years in Toledo,” Mr. Finkbeiner said.

The plan, which will cost $300,000, will define development zones for the city, de termining where business, industrial, and residential development can take place.

The city’s plan is outmoded, Mr. Finkbeiner said, and the Corradino Group’s work should guide Toledo’s development for the next 20 to 25 years.

“At the rate of change we see today, anything beyond that is unrealistic,” he said.

Toledo’s master plan last underwent a wholesale revision in 1952. The Blade’s Toledo Tomorrow project six years earlier provided much of the basis for that plan.

Toledo Tomorrow was the result of a 19-month project sponsored by the late Paul Block, Jr., Blade co-publisher. A team of the nation’s top urban planners created what was then the largest scale model of a city ever made – 61 feet long – and predicted a Toledo filled with underground expressways, five neighborhood airports, and a strong system of neighborhoods.

The project was covered by newspapers in 47 of the 48 states and became a six-page photo essay in Life magazine.

“Since then, changes in the plan have only been done in a piecemeal fashion,” said Dick Meyers, chairman of the city’s plan commission.

Toledo 20/20 will focus on strengthening Toledo’s neighborhoods, Mr. Finkbeiner said. In the past, he has pointed to the Old West End as an example of the kind of tight-knit neighborhood he would like to see across the city.

“This plan will take Toledo into the next century with a vision of diverse and vibrant neighborhoods,” he said.

Two local firms will join Corradino in the process. Jones & Henry Engineers will provide infrastructure support, and the Corporation for Effective Government will assist in setting up public forums with neighborhood groups.

Corradino Group executives said their main task over the next two years will be learning about Toledo and its citizens’ visions.

“Our role is to understand the community, to listen to the community,” said Pat Holland, the project director for Corradino.

Mr. Holland said one of the project’s priorities would be “re-claiming the waterfront” from its industrial past, as a public space or as a source for new jobs.

Corradino has done similar work in cities such as Kalamazoo and Louisville, he said.

Other focuses will include limiting suburban sprawl and creating walkable shopping districts, Mr. Holland said.

Key in Toledo’s efforts will be discussions with such neighboring communities as Perrysburg and Springfield Township, places many Toledoans have migrated to over the last decade.

“We’ve got to look over the fence at our neighbors,” Mr. Holland said. “We’ve got to see what Toledo gives them.”

Mr. Finkbeiner said the plan will be completed by December, 1999.