Mirrored here for historical purposes from:
By Edd Pritchard
CantonRep.com staff report
Posted Jun 23, 2009 @ 06:39 PM
Last update Jun 23, 2009 @ 09:43 PM
NORTH CANTON —
City officials are considering adding an employee to the economic development department as work moves forward at the Hoover complex and other projects.
Mayor David J. Held told council members on Monday that he wants someone who can help Development Director Eric Bowles.
“It only makes sense that we address this with sufficient staff,” Held said after councilman Pat DeOrio, at-large, asked about finding someone to help Bowles.
That tidbit became public after council spent a large portion two meetings — including about half of Monday’s 90-minute session — hearing two former council members question a management agreement for the $5 million Job Ready Site Grant the city received from the state last November.
The grant is being divided to use in the former Hoover factory and office building and for infrastructure in the surrounding neighborhood. Plans are to use $3 million inside the buildings and $2 million for streets, sewers and other work.
Bowles helped secure the grant. Now he is the person designated to monitor the grant as money comes from the state.
Ohio’s Department of Development required the city to enter a management agreement with Maple Street Commerce, owner of the Hoover complex. Maple Street is a partnership that includes California-based Industrial Realty Group, Industrial Commerce based in Cleveland, and locally owned DeHoff Development.
Under the agreement, city and state officials review work before Maple Street receives a reimbursement.
Bowles became the city’s development director in 2005, hired by former Mayor Tom Rice. During the past two years, he has helped the city secure several grants for development projects, prompting Held to dub him “the $10 million man.”
DeOrio asked about someone to help Bowles. As Maple Street Commerce moves forward at Hoover, Bowles needs to start looking at the city’s next development project, DeOrio said.
Held agrees. The mayor said he has been reviewing options and plans to give council suggestions in the coming months.
The development director’s job has focused on job creation, job retention and securing and managing loans, Held said. Bowles has done that by himself. Held envisions someone to help manage records and information.
The financially strapped city should be able to find money for the position, Held said. During the past three years, the workforce has dropped to 98 full-time employees from 113.
The discussion about someone to assist Bowles was brief compared to the quibbling over the city’s agreement with Maple Street Commerce.
Former council members Charles Osborne and Kathy Magel had questions during council’s June 15 work session. Magel said she eventually got answers for most of her concerns. Osborne didn’t.
On Monday night, Osborne demanded — while Magel suggested — that council continue reviewing the management agreement. But council approved the measure.
As he argued that council was moving hastily, Osborne suggested that Bowles might not be qualified to serve as project manager for the agreement. Using a report dated November 2007 — before Maple Street bought the facility — Osborne raised questions about environmental problems at the plant, including asbestos inside the building.
Not surprisingly, Osborne’s comments didn’t go over well with Maple Street representatives Bob Flaherty and Debra Harrell, IRG employees directing the Hoover redevelopment.
“This is a waste of council’s time, quite frankly,” Harrell said of Osborne’s comments.
Flaherty thanked council for the support the city has shown for the project, but added that he was angry to have to deal with Osborne’s contentions. Flaherty called the Hoover redevelopment a banner project that is “going to receive some national attention.”
Council President Daryl Revoldt called Osborne a master of “mischaracterizing and misstating situations.” Maple Street officials knew of environmental issues when it bought the property and will address them, Revoldt said.
The developers already are redesigning the building. Job Ready Site money will pay for some of the work to convert 57,000 square feet of factory space into offices for Schorer Group, which will move its Altercare of Ohio and Absolute Health Services operations — and 250 jobs — to the space.