Museum visitors find Honest Abe, Clinton share few qualities

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 4

FORT WAYNE, IND. — The Senate may have let President Clinton off the hook yesterday, but the children at The Lincoln Museum weren’t so kind.

“President Clinton, he just lies to our country,” said Kevin Hay, 10, a fifth grader at Brentwood Elementary School here. “President Lincoln, he brought our country back together, and he didn’t lie to us.”

Abraham Lincoln turned 190 yesterday, and everyone from senior citizens to schoolchildren were at the museum to learn more about his history of honor and integrity – and to draw a clear contrast between the nation’s 16th president and its 42nd.

“I think Lincoln would probably be ashamed of the state of the presidency today,” said Ron Perkins, a Fort Wayne insurance agent.

The Lincoln Museum is filled with tales of truth-telling, like the time Lincoln, then a shopkeeper, walked for miles to return change to a customer who had forgotten it. Lincoln’s life is treated alternately as a triumphant rise from a hardscrabble youth and a tragedy of Shakespearean proportion.

Mr. Clinton’s early life in Arkansas was certainly rough, but the museum’s visitors said that his current situation is more pathetic than tragic.

“Lincoln did something for us, and Clinton didn’t do nothing,” said 11-year-old D’Andre Douglas, also a fifth grader at Brentwood.

“Clinton’s just brought the presidency to such a low level,” museum docent John Pawlisch said. “It’s too bad. There probably won’t be any museums like this for Clinton.”

Several patrons contrasted the simple grandeur of Lincoln’s speeches, like the Gettysburg Address, to the legalistic banter of the current commander in chief.

“He manipulates words to make things appear how he wants them to,” Karen Perkins, also an insurance agent, said. “There’s no truth or honesty in him.”

The Perkins have lived in Fort Wayne for more than 25 years, but this was their first visit to the museum. They didn’t even realize that yesterday was Lincoln’s birthday, its observance having been cannibalized long ago by Monday’s Presidents’ Day.

But at least one visitor saw the two men’s verbal talents as a similarity, not a difference. “Lincoln really could put emotions into words,” retiree Dot Rademaker said. “With Clinton, you don’t believe everything he says, but he can really put it together well, too.”

Fort Wayne is, at first glance, an odd place to have a Lincoln museum. The only potential link between the city and the man is that he may have changed trains there in 1860.

But when local businessman (and Lincoln fan) Arthur Hall decided to start an insurance company in 1905, he decided to name it The Lincoln National Life Company. In 1931, he started a museum in the president’s honor.

The insurance company announced in November that it would move its corporate headquarters to Philadelphia. But the museum will stay behind.

The day’s festivities were topped off by the appearance of old Abe himself, in the form of Fritz Klein. The museum’s staff called him “the finest Lincoln impersonator working today.” Needless to say, this is his busy time of the year.

Replete with stovepipe hat, the 50-year-old Mr. Klein is entering his 22nd year as a Lincoln impersonator, he ruefully admits that he doesn’t need nearly as much makeup to become the aged president now as he did as a 28-year-old.

Asked for his own impression of the Clinton scandal, Mr. Klein responded diplomatically: “No comment.” But he did say that when he speaks to groups of children, “I always encourage honesty. A free society is built on trust, and as soon as that trust is gone, freedom is gone.”

Mr. Lincoln, reached through Mr. Klein, also declined comment.

Mayor’s relative not a special hire, city declares

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 17

One of the city of Toledo’s newest employees is Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s brother-in-law, but the mayor and members of his administration contend the hiring received no special attention.

Lee Youster, 41, brother of Amy Finkbeiner, the mayor’s wife, began work Feb. 5 as a supervisor in the recreation department. He is being paid $35,226 a year and will coordinate recreation programs under Recreation Commissioner Mary Dixon’s guidance.

“I wanted to move back to the area so my two sons could be closer to their family,” Mr. Youster said. “I don’t even know that Carty ever knew I was applying. I didn’t call him up and say, `Hey, Carty.’ I wouldn’t go up to him and ask him for a favor like that.”

The mayor said he knew Mr. Youster was interested, but his brother-in-law was hired because he was the right man for the job. “He got the job because he’s worked for four major universities … and because he’s eminently well-qualified for the job. He’ll be a great addition to the department of recreation team,” Mr. Finkbeiner said.

Theresa Gabriel, the city’s acting director of parks, recreation, and forestry, said Mr. Youster followed the standard procedures in applying for the job.

“There’s been nothing underhanded,” she said. “I have a clean conscience about this, no matter whose brother-in-law he is.”

For the last nine years, Mr. Youster has been a strength coach at Oklahoma State University, where he dealt with athletes in all sports other than football. Before that, he had held similar positions at the universities of Kentucky, South Carolina, and Oklahoma.

He has a degree in health, physical education, and recreation from South Dakota’s Yankton College.

He applied for the job when it became vacant in September with the resignation of Marge Ratasky, who became director of the Manor House at Wildwood Metropark. The city human resources department forwarded Mr. Youster’s name and one other to park administrators as eligible candidates.

On Jan. 7, the two candidates were interviewed by two parks, recreation, and forestry department employees and a Toledo Public Schools representative. They rated Mr. Youster the best candidate, Ms. Gabriel said, and he was hired Jan. 15.

Mr. Youster said one of his first goals will be to create recreation programs to help disabled children in Toledo.

Port official has business tie to city

By Joshua Benton and Homer Brickey
Blade Staff Writers

Page 11

J. Patrick Nicholson, the new vice chairman of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board of directors, relies on the city of Toledo for a quarter of his business.

But he and Mayor Carty Finkbeiner say that the multi-million-dollar business deal will not give the mayor any extra sway over his port authority votes.

“I’m very friendly with the mayor, but he won’t have any extra say in how I vote because we do business with the city,” Mr. Nicholson said.

Mr. Nicholson is the chairman of N-Viro International Corp., a sludge-processing company based in Toledo.

The company has patented a process that mixes sewage sludge and kiln dust to make the sludge more environmentally acceptable and useful as fertilizer.

The firm has been in financial trouble for several years, with its stock price dropping 93 per cent since 1993.

The company’s biggest client is the city of Toledo. Every year, N-Viro treats nearly two-thirds of the city’s sludge at a cost of more than $1.2 million a year to the city.

Since 1994, the city has spent $10.1 million on sludge processing. Just under $6.5 million of that has gone to N-Viro.

Toledo provides about a quarter of N-Viro’s annual revenues.

In August, Mr. Finkbeiner tapped Mr. Nicholson to serve on the port board.

In December, Mr. Nicholson was named the board’s vice chairman.

But Mr. Nicholson said that the fact that the city is his most important client won’t make him any more pressured to follow the city’s will on port issues.

“Twenty-five per cent of our business is obviously important,” he said. “Toledo is our centerpiece, our flagship. But I don’t think the city will have any undue influence because of our business relationship.”

He said he will listen to the mayor and city council on port issues “because they appointed me, not because of our contract.”

He pointed out that he had twice turned down the mayor’s offer of a port appointment.

Mr. Finkbeiner said he will not use the city’s deal with N-Viro to try to influence Mr. Nicholson’s votes on the port board.

“I chose Pat Nicholson because he is a leader who is not afraid of criticism, and his being on the port board isn’t going to influence how we deal with his business or the other way around,” the mayor said.

He praised Mr. Nicholson’s civic leadership, which includes two previous terms on the port board in the 1970s and 1980s.

The mayor pointed out that the city’s relationship with N-Viro dates to before his first term as mayor began in 1993.

Mr. Nicholson said the first deal with the city was approved in 1988.

“As long as it continues to be cost-responsible and efficient, we’ll continue using Pat’s company,” Mr. Finkbeiner said.

N-Viro’s facility is at the Bay View sewage-treatment plant and is owned by the city.

But because N-Viro has a patent on the technology, the city would not be able to use the equipment inside the facility if it used another company.

If the city chose to build a new facility, it could cost tens of millions of dollars, Mr. Nicholson said.

N-Viro’s services are more expensive than the other sludge-treatment service the city uses, Whitehouse’s S&L Fertilizer.

N-Viro charges $38.60 per ton of sludge processed; S&L charges $36.

But Don Moline, the city’s utilities director, said that N-Viro’s treatment produces a more environmentally friendly end product than S&L’s, which uses river dredgings to treat the sludge.

N-Viro has won several national awards for the quality of its product.

“Theirs is our preferred way to go,” Mr. Moline said. “It’s the highest on the chain of options and the most environmentally responsible.”

Both services are cheaper and more environmentally friendly than the city’s third option: putting the sludge in a landfill at $38.80 a ton.

The city and N-Viro are in the process of extending their current contract, which expires at the end of 2000, for five years.

Mr. Nicholson said he was not involved in those negotiations, but he said he expects no major changes in the new deal.

Like many startup companies, N-Viro has struggled to achieve profitability in its first 5 1/2 years as a publicly traded company, which makes its Toledo contract all the more important.

N-Viro has shown losses totaling nearly $11 million since it went public.

In one year, 1994, the firm lost $7.3 million.

N-Viro turned a profit in only one year – $534,000 in 1997. It appears to have slid back into the red since then: Losses through the first three quarters of 1998 totaled $121,000.

Company financial statements and filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission depict N-Viro as a company that used many maneuvers to stay afloat – cutting back staff, cutting salaries of top executives, offering stock to creditors in lieu of payments, and doing a “reverse split” of its stock to keep the price high enough to avoid expulsion from the Nasdaq Stock Market.

A few stockholders profited early, right after N-Viro’s initial public offering in October, 1993.

The stock opened at $9.50 a share and went up to $10 a share.

But because of the effect of the “reverse split” in 1995, the stock’s adjusted price in late 1993 is figured at $40, compared with recent prices in the $2.50 per-share range.

In other words, N-Viro’s stock this week was worth about 6 per cent of what it went for 5 1/2 years ago.

By late 1995, two years after the public offering, Nasdaq was threatening to delist N-Viro’s stock because its per-share price had fallen to around $1.

N-Viro shareholders approved a 1-for-4 reverse split – meaning that shareholders got one new share for four old shares.

Since that time, N-Viro’s stock has had ups and downs, and in the last year it has traded from $1.06 to $3.56 a share.

It closed yesterday at $2.69 a share, up 19 cents, on volume of 28,800 shares.

Mr. Nicholson has taken several pay cuts since the company went public.

Although his employment contract allows him a minimum annual salary of $250,000, he drew $125,000 in 1997, and a document filed with the SEC last year said he would draw $131,250 for 1998 and “will continue to accept a reduced base salary until such time as the company’s profitability permits payment of the $250,000 annual minimum.”

For the last several years, N-Viro’s board has received stock in lieu of cash for their service. Before that, board members received about $12,000 a year in compensation.

The members of the corporation’s board, according to a filing with the SEC, are Mr. Nicholson; Terry J. Logan, a professor of agronomy at Ohio State University; Michael G. Nicholson, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing; James D. O’Neil, the company’s vice president of engineering and operations; Frederick Kurtz, president of PARCOR, Inc.; Bobby B. Carroll, president and chief executive officer of Pozzolanic Contracting and Supply Co.; B.K. Wesley Copeland, a physical chemist; Wallace G. (Jack) Irmscher, a self-employed consultant, and Charles B. Kaiser, Jr., who is retired.

City to seize pension to pay for demolition

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

City officials are using a new weapon to tear down a blighted building: seizing the pension fund of its former owner.

“This should show how much we are willing to do to abate nuisances in this city,” Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said. “Slum landlords should recognize we will not stop.”

The building is at 3053 Monroe St., across from Swayne Field. It has housed a variety of businesses, from county welfare offices to an appliance store, but now is a vacant hulk, its windows smashed out and 40-ounce malt-liquor bottles littering its inner halls.

It is on the city’s “Dirty Dozen” list of blighted properties.

Nearly a year ago, Lucas County Common Pleas Judge James Bates ordered the owner, Dr. Sheldon Schachner, 67, to clean up the property. The city’s projected cost of the cleanup is $297,000.

Dr. Schachner, an ear, nose, and throat specialist who has owned the building on and off since the 1970s, forfeited it to the city in November because of nonpayment of taxes. But he is legally obligated to pay for razing the building. He claimed he couldn’t provide the $297,000 because he had very little income and his “wife takes care of everything” financially, according to court documents.

City prosecutors pointed to his $600,000 pension fund. On Jan. 19, Judge Richard McQuade ruled that the money could be seized to pay for the demolition.

Yesterday, the city filed a writ to seize the money. The mayor said the action is a signal of how far the city will go to demolish blighted properties.

“We will not let slum landlords falsely claim poverty,” Mr. Finkbeiner said. “We will find you, and you will pay.”

City attorney John Madigan said Dr. Schachner has until Feb. 18 to appeal. The doctor’s attorney, Harland Britz, said he would appeal because the pension plan is federally protected. “This is a benefits plan that cannot be attached” to pay for the demolition, Mr. Britz said.

Dr. Schachner did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The doctor has a history of leaving his properties in less-than-perfect condition.

He is a part owner of the AP Parts complex, which has become an illegal dump site at 600 Bassett St.; the city is trying to enforce a 1996 court ruling that awarded it $400,000 for cleanup.

In 1997, he was fined $25,000 and put on probation for three years when a jury found him guilty of storing hazardous waste on his property at 2221 Lorle St.

He was found guilty of failing to comply with an order from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to test several drums of waste on the property. The Lucas County Court of Appeals rejected his appeal of that conviction Friday.

City, UT police accord to get council attention

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 9

University of Toledo police could have extra powers to enforce Toledo laws, if the city council approves a new mutual-aid agreement during its meeting tomorrow.

UT police now have the ability to enforce state laws, including many traffic restrictions, throughout Lucas County, because of agreements between the university and other area governments.

But the new agreement, reached through negotiations over the last several months, would allow UT officers to enforce city laws in a restricted area. City leaders say the change would allow better police action against problems such as noisy off-campus student parties.

“This will allow a more proactive stance on complaints of nuisance,” Toledo police Chief Michael Navarre said.

The university police’s new powers would be effective in a defined area, bounded by Byrne, Secor, and Douglas roads, Bancroft and Dorr streets, Parkside and Kenwood boulevards, and Hill Avenue.

The areas would include the southern portion of the Old Orchard neighborhood, all of Bancroft Hills, and Secor Gardens.

The agreement removes certain powers that UT police have in the rest of Toledo, including the ability to enforce state laws as far away as Point Place or East Toledo.

But that change would have no real effect, because a separate mutual-aid agreement with Lucas County Sheriff James Telb allows UT police that power throughout the entire county, including all of Toledo. That power would not be affected by the new city accord.

University officials have approved the agreement, and the city council is expected to do the same at its 4 p.m. meeting tomorrow. In addition, the council will consider:

* Starting eminent domain proceedings against three property owners whose homes must be acquired by the city for the Jeep project. Council has postponed action on the proceedings for months, as council members have tried to reach a mediated settlement with the homeowners.

But council President Peter Ujvagi said at the council’s last meeting that he will support eminent domain at tomorrow’s meeting if medi ation efforts meet with no success. The council is expected to follow his lead.

* Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s proposed 60-day moratorium against commercial demolitions. The 60 days would be used to creates rules and guidelines aimed at preserving historic structures throughout the city.

Council will hold a public hearing at 3 p.m. tomorrow to address citizens’ concerns about the moratorium.