[ back ]
City to pitch in funds for new log cabin
City to pitch in funds for new log cabin
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
Chardon City Council financially will back plans to replace the log cabin on Chardon Square.
Council voted 4-3 Monday in a special session to give at least $81,000 toward the project that has been in the planning stages for the six years. It took the action in hope of spurring on the project that has failed to raise through private donations approximately $400,000 needed for construction. So far, $224,793 has been pledged and $109,000 collected.
Council also agreed to forfeit a $14,600 grant it had received for the demolition of the existing log cabin. The funds needed to be spent this year.
The approval came as residents raised objections to the city’s participation in the project. One of those objecting, Tilden Avenue resident Thomas Bryant, presented petitions, which he said represented those opposed to using public funds for the project.
The approval was given with conditions attached to it. Council President Philip King said the conditions were determined after polling council on the idea.
The conditions include giving not less than $81,000 and keeping project costs at a maximum of $300,000, Mr. King said. The city also established a Dec. 31 deadline for calling in all private pledges for the project and bidding the project by the second week of January.
Council began the meeting by looking at costs for upgrading the existing structure. A year-old estimate for tearing down and replacing with the same structure is $169,960, City Manager Randal Sharpe said. Estimates for making repairs to the approximately 50-year-old cabin are $40,880.
The new building will be open for rentals to the public for private parties, such as weddings and birthday parties, Mr. Sharpe said. The city previously has restricted use of the cabin to non-profit organizations with the majority of its members from the city.
Councilwoman Deborah Reiter pointed out that the estimates for the work were not done using prevailing wages, which could increase costs by about a third.
James Rayl, a board of directors member with Chardon Kiwanis, pleaded with officials to not demolish the cabin yet. He said Kiwanis uses the building for its annual sales of maple syrup, raising between $10,000 and $12,000 annually to support the organization’s scholarship programs. Those annual sales could be lost, he indicated, adding it would cost the Geauga County Maple Festival board money to set up a temporary building.
“Those two negatives don’t make a positive,” Mr. Rayl said. “Let this grant go.”
Plans are to demolish and build the new structure after the Kiwanis fund-raiser and the annual festival in 2013.
Council members, who expressed opposition to a city contribution, referred to a 2007 ballot issue that stated the project would be done with private funding.
“The ballot said private funds, and that’s where I’m at,” Mrs. Reiter said.
Councilman Mitch Hewitt said he had concerns if the city contributed, as others being asked for pledges may reason that the project does not need their support. He recalled that Chardon High School’s stadium project ran into the same problem. Once it was built, people no longer felt it was necessary to give pledges, so the project was awash in debt.
Councilwoman Leslie Bednar said the project always has been the city’s responsibility. She said it was the city that formed an ad hoc committee to raise the funds for building and has repeatedly voted to support the project.
“We’ve done everything to support it other than authorize funding for it,” she said. “That’s the different step tonight.”
The city is using non-tax funds for its contribution. The funds will come from forfeited deposits from builders, inheritance taxes and zoning fees. “The taxpayers are not writing the check,” Mrs. Bednar said.
Mr. Bryant, however, cited a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that stated any fee imposed by the government is a tax. He appealed to council to reconsider its contribution, saying it would be for a “non-essential” project at a time when the economy is struggling.
Mr. Bryant collected petitions over a two-week period, asking residents and workers in the city to oppose the city using public dollars for the project. He said only three of those asked would not sign it. “All I ask is that you listen to your constituents,” he said.
Councilman John Mallen said he counted 178 signatures on the petitions. Mrs. Bednar said the numbers did not represent the majority of more than 5,000 residents in the city.
North Street resident Barb Mohnacsky said she also objected to public dollars being used, especially at a time when the city is preparing to hike water and sewer rates for resident. She wants the money used for road repairs or other needed projects.
Mr. Bryant questioned how the city will be able keep the project at the $300,000 maximum when cost overruns come in. Mr. King said there will be no cost overruns.
[ back ]