City council and administrators differ on two DIP grants

By Deb Buker

At its September 2 meeting, Perrysburg City Council heard a first reading only of two Downtown Improvement Program (DIP) grant ordinances which have caused controversy among council members and city administrators.

The first reading was a request by Council President Joe Lawless, who was unable to attend the Tuesday meeting.  A special meeting of city council was scheduled for last evening, September 9, to discuss and possibly vote on the two ordinances.

In the spring of this year, Jeff Huskisson, owner of Pacesetter Property Management, submitted grant applications for properties located at 112 and 118 East Front Street-multi-family residential rental properties. The total submitted cost for intended repairs, renovations and enhancements on the 112 property is $64,875 and the 118 property, $57,853.

The original grant amount request was $25,000 for each location. The grants received approval from the Historic Landmarks Commission and the economic development committee of council.

However, concern from several council members and administrators was two-fold.

At an August 18 meeting of council, the ordinances were tabled due to the question of funding of residential property enhancements and also money available in the municipal development account.

Speaking at that meeting, Perrysburg resident and member of the planning commission Becky Williams urged council members to reconsider the grant request.

"I would request that council and the economic development committee re-evaluate the awarding of a DIP grant to the 112 and 118 East Front Street properties as they are residential in nature. It is my understanding that the DIP program was intended for commercial business within the downtown business district," she said.

The downtown improvement program offers property owners and/or tenants  located within the downtown "project area" a one-half reimbursement grant up to $25,000 for pre-approved expenses for individual buildings.

The economic development committee of city council (Chairman John Kevern, Mr. Lawless and Mike Olmstead) again discussed the requests at a committee meeting on August 26.

City Administrator John Alexander addressed the committee and stated the administration recommends that each ordinance be amended to $5,000, for a total of $10,000.

"The purpose behind this recommendation being the municipal development account funds the downtown improvement program with a steady revenue source through our rental properties but by no means is guaranteed. It is the practice to maintain liquidity in the accounts and allow the balances in that account to accumulate to allow for other purposes than the DIP, which is the original intent of the municipal development account," said Mr. Alexander, adding that the downtown improvement program is not an entitlement program but a discretionary program authorized by council.

Also, it was noted that downtown improvement grant requests for properties at 204 and 206 Louisiana Avenue are pending.  The properties are owned by Rick Ruffner of O-DEER Properties.

The city administrator stated that the current account balance is $156,000 and all of it is encumbered, leaving a negative balance.

"Therefore, it is our recommendation that ordinances authorizing grants for 112 and 118 E. Front Street be limited to no more than $5,000," he stated. "We went though a thoughtful process in making this recommendation. Our concern on the annual accounting, the numbers may work, the unfortunate nature of this account is there are carry-overs and if all grants that have been approved and all debits that have accumulated against the municipal development account would walk into the finance department today and ask for reimbursement the account would be negative balance of approximately $21,000.

"A very thoughtful analysis led us to those figures, which we believe are justified. There has been an application for those processes and in the technical sense meet the program guidelines and the program geography as it currently stands. However, the mayor has indicated it is his belief the applications at 204 and 206 Louisiana Avenue are much closer to the historic downtown property that we envisioned when this program was developed," said the administrator.

Councilor Maria Ermie said she believes that residential renovations "clearly was not the original intent" of the downtown development program.

After a lengthy meeting, the economic development committee made the following downtown improvement grant recommendations, for which a first reading was heard:

  • 112 East Front Street- $20,000
  • 118 East Front Street- $17,000

Other Business

In other business, council:

  • Approved a $12,900 DIP grant to Rick Ruffner, O-DEER Properties, for

206 Louisiana Avenue.

  • Authorized a $66,000 contract with Cam-Tech Industrial Services for sanitary sewer repair in the Three Meadows subdivision.
  • Authorized a $33,050 city expenditure to construct an oversize sewer line to serve the interior property bordering on South Wilkinson Way for the ISOH/IMPACT development in Levis Commons.
  • Approved the increase of mattress disposal from $10 to $11.55 due to landfill fee increased charges to the city.
  • Scheduled the following meetings: planning and zoning, Wednesday, September 17, 5:30 p.m.; recreation, Monday, September 22, 5 p.m., and health, sanitation and public utilities, Tuesday, September 23, 6 p.m. Meetings are held in the municipal building and are open to the public.

The next meeting of city council is Tuesday, September 16, 7:30 p.m., in the municipal building. The meeting is open to the public.