Council takes up same old Jeep issue; Incentive-package financing debated

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

The Toledo city council grappled again yesterday with the question that has been plaguing the city for almost two years: how to pay for Jeep in a way that leaves the city in good financial shape.

“There’s not one person at this table who isn’t committed to making the Jeep project happen,” council President Peter Ujvagi said about DaimlerChrysler’s $1.2 billion expansion of its Stickney Road facility. “But we’ve got to make the best financial decision for this city.”

The council’s committee-of-the-whole met yesterday afternoon to debate where the city will get the money for the project’s incentive package. The council took no action and said it will continue the debate May 10.

Major points of discussion have been how to use the proceeds of the sale of city-owned land in Monclova Township and the economic-development money available to the city from Toledo Edison.

The city has agreed to sell 212 acres of its Monclova Township land to Eclat, a private development partnership, for about $6.2 million. Of that sum, the administration is seeking to put $5 million toward paying for the Jeep project. But several council members said it might be wiser to borrow money up front to allow that $5 million to be used in economic development or community projects.

As for the Edison money, under an agreement with the utility, the city received $6 million over five years to be used for economic-development. The administration is seeking to use $4.45 million of that for the Jeep.

But several council members, including Mr. Ujvagi, say that would violate a 1996 council resolution. At that time, the council said that half the Edison money should go toward reducing the electric bills of small commercial utility customers in Toledo.

The administration has said that resolution is not binding and the money should go to Jeep to reduce the amount to be borrowed. Mr. Ujvagi said that the council may be willing to change its mind, but “when council passes a resolution, it likes to keep its word.”

Several council members asked if DaimlerChrysler might be persuaded to contribute more to the incentive package. Administrators said the corporation had so far been unwilling to change its position.

“We’re bargaining from a position of no strength,” Councilman C. Allen McConnell said. “Any leverage we might have had is gone.”