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Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Loan OK'd for St. Marys storefront fixes

CIC getting money to renovate former Fort Barbee building

By Janie Southard
ST. MARYS - A full house but fairly quiet group heard city council pass a resolution Monday to loan money to improve storefronts at the Fort Barbee building downtown.
Third reading passed 3-1, with council member Robin Willoughby voting no. Councilman Mike Kleinhenz was absent and excused.
The resolution authorizes a loan up to $150,000 to the Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) for renovation of three storefronts at the Fort Barbee building. St. Marys City Schools' administration is considering renting one storefront for its district office for five years at $1,000 per month.
The Fort Barbee building is owned by Columbus businessman Fred Schwab, who renovated the top floors of the building into senior living apartments about 10 years ago. At that time, the CIC loaned him $400,000.
The loan approved Monday will go strictly toward renovation, not to Schwab. Rent earned from the storefronts will go to the CIC, which will repay the loan to the city over 20 years with 2 percent interest.
At recent city council meetings, some residents spoke out against taxpayer money being loaned to the CIC. They also expressed concern over Schwab being delinquent on current loans.
Following the meeting, Willoughby explained her vote.
"People who live in those senior apartments have come to me with problems, even though it's not in my Ward. I know Fred Schwab revamped the place and made it handicapped accessible, and I know the city gave him ($400,000) originally. But I don't think we should give him more money.
"I think the school could make a better choice. Maybe I'm wrong, but as I say I've been up there and I foresee trouble," she said this morning.
Michigan native Kalvin Schanz, who owns many downtown properties, told council he had a "perfect building" to house the school district administration offices and asked council to consider his building. Council President Dan Hoelscher explained the city does not make decisions for the school district and that the only matter under consideration was the loan to the CIC to renovate Fort Barbee.
Following the meeting, Schanz said he doesn't know how many buildings he owns in St. Marys. He did acknowledge that at least one of his buildings is currently in foreclosure; however, he had no further comment regarding that issue.
Schanz said he rented space for a restaurant in the Fort Barbee building several years ago but was evicted for non-payment of a $700 city utility bill.
"I've never been evicted from anywhere in my life, until that," he said, adding some local judges have "always been against me."
"I just hope the school will rent from me," he said.
In other action, council heard first reading on an ordinance authorizing the advertisement and offer to sell certain surplus vehicles and equipment as follows: 1980 Chevy digger truck, 1986 Ford bucket truck, 1989 Chevy pickup truck, 1996 Ford Crown Victoria, a conference table, Ricoh wide format copier, miscellaneous desks, cabinets, computers, monitors, printers, chairs, SCBA breathing apparatus and bottles, lagoon cleaning system (dredge) and other miscellaneous equipment.
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