Question of the day. Where is a road improvement not a transportation improvement?Want proof? Here are the many splendored threads of a million dollar boondoggle.
Remember back when the late Mayor Dennis Michael Collins all but gave the keys to city coffers to lure Big Green, errr, ProMedica HQ downtown? Hizzoner threw big green at Big Green, from deeding then city-owned Promenade Park to their new campus to promising major improvements to Summit Street.
That’s where our story begins. Improvements to Summit Street. For better traffic flow into and out of the Big Green HQ. And a more attractive streetscape. All of which would cost the city big green, indeed.
In return, ProMedica agreed to improve pedestrian bridges across Summit and maintain a redesigned Promenade Park. Both of which have been completed, to the continued delight of all.
Which left the City’s commitment to improve Summit Street.
Fix the damn street
Fast forward to late twenty nineteen. The biggest international event to hit the Swamp in decades, the Solheim Cup, was a bit under two years away. The Solheim promised to lure thousands of well-heeled golf fans from across the US and Europe to T-Town. The kickoff events were planned for downtown and, more to the point, a major kickoff concert was planned for Promenade Park.
Summit Street became public works improvement priority with a bullet beginning with the twenty twenty construction season, for completion in twenty twenty one. To the tune of an estimated cool ten plus large. As in millions.
Then the pandemic devastated the city budget. The project was sold to Toledo city council in May twenty twenty as a necessary roadway reconstruction. Old transportation infrastructure in need of updating. Safety and the public commonwealth and all that. Still essential even in light of the budget collapse.
Tucked into the full reconstruction was the necessary relocation of all utilities. As a transportation project, cost of this relocation was to be borne by the utility companies.
Except that somewhere along the way the Wade administration agreed to reimburse the relocation of cable lines by one specific utility.
When questioned by curious members of council about this singular exception, the administration opined that the roadway reconstruction was actually a beautification project, meaning the city, and not the utilities, was responsible for costs of relocation. According to Law Director Dale Emch, that’s the law.
Never mind that Emch once worked for an affiliate of the cable company, or that his wife still does. It’s still the law. Sez Dale.
Then the feds started poking around. As in the FBI. And then Emch received a taxpayer letter demanding he take action to recoup the money, the first step toward seeking a writ requiring him to do so.
Whoopsie, said Wade. It was all a ruse, he grinned. We hadda get the project finished and dinna want it tied up in court, he mumbled.
Now that the project is nearing completion and all utilities have been moved, and the feds and taxpayers breathed fire under his tuchus, Wade has pulled a one eighty and sued to regain the funds.
So first it was a transportation project. Then somebody got in somebody’s ear, apparently, and it was a mere aesthetic improvement. Then the heat got turned up and it’s a transportation project again.
The wishy washy fishy flopping will likely not play well in court. Meaning the City is in a tough spot. Recently taxpayers have petitioned to join the suit for that exact reason.
Meanwhile Big Green will get their nice new Summit Street right on time. D Michael would be proud.