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Village moves fast on CBE funding

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Village Council is poised to move forward quickly on the Center for Business and Education, or CBE, at its Jan. 6 meeting. At the meeting, Council will vote on two pieces of legislation related to the project: the first reading of an ordinance that approves the issuance of bonds for the project (a second reading will take place at Council’s Jan. 20 meeting) and a resolution that allows Interim Village Manager Kent Bristol to hire a project manager. This week Bristol said he hopes to bring the name of a potential candidate for the project manager job to the Jan. 6 meeting.

The Village needs to move quickly because it’s in danger of losing a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers grant of about $412,000, Bristol said.

“I don’t want to lose the $400,000,” Bristol said on Tuesday. “I want to get this going as quickly as we can.”

Bristol said he hopes to post a request for bids by the end of January, then entertain bids by mid to late February, possibly choosing a contractor by the end of February or the beginning of March.

The ordinance authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds for the almost $1 million that the Village, if the ordinance is approved, will contribute to construct the infrastructure on the CBE. The Village will pay up to $14,750 for this part of the process, according to bond counsel Margaret Comey this week. And the $1 million includes about $60,000 to contract with a project manager, according to Bristol.

The total amount the Village will pay could be $1.6 million if the project takes 20 years to build out, with the Village paying about $80,500 annually in interest. If the project takes 10 years of $80,500 interest annually, the Village will pay $1.2 million.

Council voted to move forward with the CBE funding at its last meeting on Dec. 16. Community Resources, which owns the CBE land and is the main promoter of the project, asked Council for about $656,000 in August to make up for an Ohio Department of Transportation grant that had been rescinded due to the project’s many delays. While Council originally seemed open to the request, it later tabled a motion to fund the project, after the majority of Council members became concerned about the viability of the Village launching a business park. However, after former Council President Judith Hempfling retired and Council member Rick Walkey did not win re-election in November, the new Council voted at its last meeting to move forward.

Supporters of the CBE say it is the best way to promote economic development in the village. Some who question the project oppose the use of public funds to finish a project that they fear is not viable.

The December 16 vote to move forward was 3–2, with Wintrow, Gerry Simms and Brian Housh voting for, and Lori Askeland and Marianne MacQueen voting against. However, MacQueen later stated that her “no” vote was a mistake, and she intended to vote for moving the CBE ahead.

In an email last week, Askeland questioned the use of public funds for a project that she believes holds considerable risk.

“Increasingly, I simply believe that it is unwise for the Village to go into debt for this project, even if that means losing the federal grant,” she wrote.

In an interview this week, MacQueen said she would likely be voting to move ahead with the CBE.

“I feel some discomfort that it feels we’re backing into the project,” MacQueen said. “But I still balance that with believing if we pull back, what would happen instead? I’m afraid nothing.”

MacQueen restated her desire to have the CBE as one piece of an overall economic developmment strategy.

This week Wintrow said she agrees with those who seek more information on the project.

“I acknowledge there’s not enough information and a lot of questions,” she said, stating that Community Resources is currently putting together a business plan, which has been lacking to this point. The information gathering can coexist with moving forward, she said.

According to Wintrow, there are still opportunities to stop the project until the Village approves a contractor for infrastructure construction and “we start digging the road.”

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