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Toledo city councilmember looking for answers about Summit Street project

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 6:00 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Toledo city council members are asking for answers into what’s really happening with the Summit Street reconstruction project that is now under FBI investigation.

Councilman Rob Ludeman’s estimates that the city has spent over a million dollars moving the Buckeye Broadband lines at this project. Something no other utility got. What sort of repercussions could that decision have is the worry.

When the city administration came to Toledo City Council asking for $3 million more dollars for Summit Street reconstruction in mid 2020 Councilman Ludeman remembers the pitch.

“It was Solheim, Solheim, Solheim. It’s so important that we’ve got to get this project going now. If you don’t get it going now with the COVID. I think the focus was so much on because all the activity is going to be down here. You’ve got to get the project done. So we’ll move forward with it,” said Ludeman.

Ludeman says he was told Buckeye had to move its lines 2 years earlier when Summit Street work near Promenade Park occurred so the thought was why make Buckeye pay twice?

“It was centered to me on ‘this is an economic development thing. We will get it back at some point in time in additional revenue.’ But I don’t think anyone on council would have moved forward if we had had proper answers at the time of the vote. We still haven’t gotten all the proper answers,” said Ludeman.

Ludeman says he later learned no utility lines were moved the first time around and the city was paying quite a bit to move Buckeye lines now.

“We’re talking about a million dollars. One point one is what it might come down to,” said Ludeman.

The longtime councilman asked the city specific utility questions about who paid what last summer and still hasn’t gotten answers in writing. The 13abc asked Ludeman Wednesday if he believes Buckeye got a special deal here.

“Sure,” responded Ludeman, “I think as information comes out we’re going to have pursue it. And if the administration is not, I don’t see it, I think council is going to have to take appropriate action. That’s going to take some doing.”

The city’s law director Dale Emch said in a 2020 email to the city auditor that he deemed the project an aesthetic fix meaning the city had pay.

Utility lines have come up in city construction in the past. In 2002, AT&T sued both the city and Lucas County for nearly $300,000 over moving lines beneath Superior Street for construction of Fifth Third Field. Three years later, a federal judge ruled in favor of the city and county, saying the AT&T had to pay.

But now the city appears to have changed its tune, leading people like Ludeman to worry about the slippery slope.

“Are AT&T and Columbia {Gas} and {Toledo} Edison asking for theirs to be picked up now too?” said Ludeman.

No one has been charged in this case in connection with the FBI investigation and we don’t know if anyone will be.

Ludeman did say maybe city council might need to hire its own special legal council if it can’t get answers as to what happen.

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