Perrysburg Twp. appeal refused- twp out 5 million $

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

shell of the Rossford amphitheater gathers rust in the Crossroads area
of the city. Legal disputes with Perrysburg Township over a $5 million
loan to the project have been resolved. (Photo: Aaron

For the city of Rossford the
long-running court battle with neighboring Perrysburg Township over a
$5 million loan the township made to the failed arena amphitheater
project is done.

For the township, the $5 million is gone forever.

And the only thing the township gets out of it is the $50,000 the city agreed to pay the township in April.

On Friday the Ohio Supreme Court said it wouldn't hear an appeal of the
last standing suit by the township against the city, the Rossford Arena
Amphitheater Authority, and former Mayor Mark Zuchowski who served as
RAAA president.

For Perrysburg Township officials, the Ohio Supreme Court's action
means the township's seven-year court battle to try to recoup its $5
million investment is over.

"I don't think we're going to pursue this anymore," township trustee Gary Britten said today.

Britten said he and fellow trustees Craig LaHote and Bob Mack learned
of the high court's decision over the weekend from township
administrator John Hrosko.

This morning Hrosko said the current board of trustees through their
attorney, John Donahue, made a concerted effort to recover the $5
million. But the fight is over. "I think these trustees made a gallant
effort. But we're not going to throw any more money at it."

Ed Ciecka, Rossford city administrator, announced the Ohio Supreme Court's action at Monday's city council meeting.
"It's done," said city Law Director Kevin Heban.
an interview after the meeting, Mayor Bill Verbosky, who succeeded
Zuchowski in office, said the court's action was "kind of a bittersweet
The authority's failure to secure long-term financing for the project,
after it got started using the money from the township and a loan from
the carpenter's union, scuttled the project.
That "put a damper" on development in that area, Verbosky said.
That's been overcome as retail has sprouted further south in the
Crossroads area, culminating last week with the opening of a Bass Pro
While the Supreme Court discussion ends this round of legal squabbling
between the neighboring communities, officials are still discussing
such contentious issues as revenue sharing from development in the area
that the city annexed from the township.
In terms of legal fees expended in the long-running court battle,
Hrosko said it is difficult to determine an exact amount. He said
Donahue was working on many other legal issues for the township over
the years, and there is no easy way to break-out the exact amount spent
just on the RAAA matter.
Britten estimated the township since 2001, when the first lawsuit was
filed, has spent around $50,000 in legal fees. He suggested this amount
was recouped when Rossford earlier this year agreed to pay that amount
to settle some issues raised in the township's lawsuits.
"It's not what we wanted," Britten said. "But at least it helped cover some of the legal fees."
Other estimates in the past have pegged the legal fees higher than the $50,000 estimate.
Ciecka said he did not know the cost to the city. Most of the legal
fees, including the $50,000 settlement, were paid by the city's
insurance company.
Some of the others owed money by the authority were able to recoup some
their money through the sale of RAAA lands. The carpenter's union ended
up purchasing the amphitheater site at a sheriff's sale last year.
But the township never secured its $5 million loan through liens like other investors.
Britten said that was a mistake of the old board of trustees and their legal advisor at the time.
"The money never should have been given to them, or it should have had
a security tied to it," Britten said. "It sure wasn't done right.
Unfortunately, we're suffering for it now."
In other action Monday related to the arena amphitheater project,
Rossford City Council approved a settlement with the investment firm
that advised the authority on financing for the project. James J. Lahay
and Stifel, Nicolaus Company, of St. Louis will pay the city $10,000
toward the settlement with the township.
The city contended that when Zuchowski made representations to the
township trustees about the prospects for the project, he was relaying
information provided by the investment firm.
The resolution passed 6-0, with Caroline Eckel, who is Zuchowski's daughter, abstaining.

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