Council debates hotel property

Tiffin City Council debated whether the city should buy a vacant building on East Market Street.

Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz recommended the city move forward in purchasing the property, located on 25 E. Market St., which was formerly the Stalsworth and Pryzm Hotel.

“I know that you have to take a risk when it comes to business to create business,” he said. “There’s just a lot of opportunity that we have with those properties if we were to purchase that.”

Montz said the cheapest estimate to tear down the Salvation Army Building and the two buildings on the Stalsworth property is $180,000.

To tear down the Salvation Army Building and the hotel, but leave up the warehouse that was once the Nightmare Within haunted house, Montz said the lowest estimate was $140,000.

Councilman Joe Hartzell said he was concerned about the city buying the property because there are a lot of uncertainties involved.

“It seems like we’re doing two things: we’re spending a large amount of money and we’re also taking away a tax base,” he said. “Right now, as long as that property is there, they’re paying taxes on it. Once that property becomes ours, no more income. It’s strictly expenses.”

Hartzell said the city will not generate money from the property for a long time.

Councilman Mark Hayes said the warehouse behind the Stalsworth hotel does not have any value and is in “terrible shape” and would take a “sustainable amount of cash” to repair it.

Councilman Tyler Shuff said he is also “on the fence” about buying the property and said it is an “awfully big risk.”

Law Director Brent Howard said the quotes Montz gave during the meeting could be lower or higher, as the city will bid out construction work.

CEO and President of Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. Rich Focht said the city and county invested $250,000 in the Shawhan Hotel and got a $6.2 million investment out of the property.

“There are certain things that the public sector has to do that the private sector sometimes just isn’t capable of doing,” he said. “The recommendations that (SIEDC) has made to this council have always borne fruit. I believe the Stalsworth project is something we need to take a hard look at and figure out a way to move forward with that.”

Focht said the warehouse has “rehab potential” and structurally the building is okay.

Montz said he has spoken to a few interested parties about the building.

Council heard the second of three readings Monday night, and will continue discussions at a special meeting at 5 p.m. March 25.

Also during the meeting Jonathon LaCross of AEP Power spoke to council about government aggregation.

Government aggregation is when a group of customers join to form a single, larger customer, which would save residents money, he said.

He said cities and counties have been doing aggregation for electric and natural gas to save citizens’ money.

Montz recommended the city look into this more, and said it needs to do whatever it can to save taxpayer money.

Councilman Jim Roberts said he will look into it but is skeptical.

Council President Paul Elchert assigned Roberts, chair of the Utilities and Related Services Committee, to further discuss aggregation.

Jane Betz of Real Living Generations Realty spoke to council about the company’s fundraising for the swimming pool and fireworks.

She said the group started three weeks ago and has raised about $15,000.

Montz said even though the city is in final stages of an agreement with the YMCA to operate the pool this summer, the city still needs donations.

He said the $30,000 needed to open and operate the pool this summer would be a high figure if the city did not have the YMCA’s participation.

Montz also gave an update on a jobs fair being organized by the city and the county.

He said there are more than 300 jobs in Tiffin alone, and many businesses are looking for qualified employees.

The fair is to take place noon-6 p.m. May 13 at Tiffin University’s Heminger Center.

Also during the meeting, council passed the following ordinances by a vote of 6-0:

An ordinance amending and restating ordinance no. 12-74, the city pay ordinance reclassifying support staff positions with the police department, and declaring an emergency.

An ordinance amending budget ordinance 12-73 appropriating money received from a grant for police overtime.

An ordinance authorizing the transfer of funds and payment of bond and loan interest and principal, and declaring an emergency.

An ordinance amending budget ordinance 12-73 appropriating money for fees collected for dispatcher test, a donation for the purpose of EMS equipment and CHIP management services.

Council also heard the first of three readings of the following pending legislation:

An ordinance amending section 935.04 of the Tiffin Codified Ordinances permitting the sale and consumption of alcohol at Hedges-Boyer Park for certain, regulated events following rules prescribed by the City Administrator.

An ordinance amending the pay schedule A to ordinance no. 13-10 by deleting building custodian I and changing the name of building custodian II to city building maintenance custodian.