Council frustrated by ‘shifting’ Jeep costs

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 21

At 2:30 p.m. yesterday, Toledo council believed the city would put about $38.4 million into keeping Jeep.

By 5 p.m., though, that number had increased by more than $2.7 million.

That’s because the initial projections created by Finkbeiner administration officials left out key costs the city will have to pay, council members said.

“It’s frustrating when you’re trying to get a handle on a huge project like this to have the costs keep shifting,” said council member Edna Brown.

The discovery of the shortfall at a meeting of council’s economic development and planning committee came about gradually.

At the meeting’s outset, David Wallace, the city’s point man on the Jeep project, quoted his best estimate on the city’s costs as $38,375,000.

Within a few minutes, council member Betty Shultz asked a question about a $2 million state grant being used as part of the Jeep package.

Jim Phillips, a city finance department official, pointed out that the grant required matching funds from the city – about $2.1 million, he said.

That $2.1 million had not been included in the city’s cost estimate because the city had not confirmed the exact sum it would be expected to pay, he said.

A few minutes later, Ms. Brown inquired about a figure in one of the handouts that Mr. Wallace distributed at the start of the meeting.

It estimated the total cost to the city to be $38,950,000 – $575,000 more than the total presented at the meeting’s start.

Mr. Wallace replied that the lower, earlier figure was a summary of funding sources the city had identified, but Toledo eventually must commit the higher sum to the project.

Later in the meeting, Mr. Wallace said an additional, undetermined amount might be needed to help relocate the 15 businesses that will be moved when the city buys their property to make room for the expanded Stickney Avenue plant.

“I’ve heard [cost estimate] numbers much higher than the ones being presented today,” Ms. Shultz said. “We’ve got to know the real, baseline numbers.”