By Timothy Cox
Details remain murky about the set-up of a private, non-profit corporation being formed to help redevelop the former Mersman Furniture Co. site in Celina.
Celina resident Don Kohnen blasted city council members at Monday's meeting for the secrecy surrounding the project. Kohnen claimed he has been lied to about the status of the new entity.
The Celina Housing and Economic Development Corporation (CHEDC) is being put together by the city's economic development consultant Kent Bryan. The aspiring non-profit entity has applied for tax credits from the state to assist in a project that includes a senior living center and a subdivision of starter homes.
Kohnen said he has requested the names of people serving on the board of the new non-profit to no avail and demanded answers from city officials.
"I want to know and I want to know tonight," Kohnen said. City officials were at a loss to provide answers. The non-profit is separate from city operations, and Bryan is the man with the answers, they told Kohnen. Bryan is on vacation and unavailable for comment. Bryan launched the CHEDC project, but it remains unclear if any board members have been seated.
An April 2005 letter from the state to the city clarifying that the non-profit is unrelated to the city government proves that the group is fully developed with a board of trustees, Kohnen argued. Some city officials said they do not believe that is true.
They pointed to the fact that Bryan previously stated that information on the tax credit application was written in a future tense and that a board was not currently in place.
Even if a board is in place for the new non-profit, because the city is uninvolved in the project, city officials have no responsibility to turn over names of people involved in the group, council President Bill Sell said.
The new non-profit agency is intended to help facilitate investment deals that will indirectly benefit the city through redevelopment. The Mersman site is owned mostly by Rockford Construction Services. One parcel is owned by Alumacast and another is still owned by The Standard Printing Co., publishers of The Daily Standard.
City officials are seeking a $1.8 million Ohio Department of Natural Resources grant to assist Rockford Construction in leveling and cleaning up the site for redevelopment.