ROSSFORD – The City of Rossford may have expanded greatly to the south with the annexation of what is now
the Crossroads of America, but the traditional downtown still is close to residents’ hearts.
And to see it deteriorate does not sit well if the questions posed at the recent candidates forum held in
the city can be believed.
The candidates – challenger Mike Scott and incumbents Leonard Michaels, Chuck Duricek, Jim Richards and
Caroline Eckel – were all asked what the city could do to improve downtown, including addressing the
issue of empty and poorly maintained storefronts.
Richards cautioned against relying too heavily on regulation. Property rights are "precious"
and shouldn’t be impinged upon. The city should look to "entice" downtown property owners to
improve, he said.
Michaels said the city’s zoning ordinance can be used to address problems such as inadequate signs, and
the health department has purview over some issues regarding vacant properties.
"It comes down to an issue of community pride," said Eckel. She also said that maybe the county
health department may be able to help.
Duricek said legally there are limits on what the city can do. Citing his own efforts to improve the look
of his business, he said, he would like to see business owners take the initiative, though "maybe
we can offer them some incentives."
Scott said that the zoning board "can only work with the set of zoning rules that are out
He and others cited the need for a downtown master plan to help guide development downtown.
"We need to do planning as to what the downtown should look like," Scott said. The city should
draw on the experience of other neighboring communities.
Michaels noted that when council voted to purchase new lights downtown, it considered whether the lights
would work in a future cityscape.
He is chairing a committee that will study a possible design review process for the downtown area.
Eckel said the city should aggressively pursue grants to help with the work. "As soon as we can find
something else we should go full speed ahead."
Richards said that the city had started working on a grant from the state through the Main Street
program, but it required matching investment by the local government and business. "Unfortunately
that’s been a little slow in coming in some instances."
Duricek cautioned that grants often have "strings attached."
"I’d like to rely on business owners more than anything," he said.
The candidates weren’t betting on how much a new casino proposed to be built in Toledo adjacent to
Rossford’s downtown might help the city.
"I don’t think that casino will benefit Rossford one iota," Duricek said. He admitted he wasn’t
a big fan of casinos. "My form of gambling is turning the key on my business every morning,"
said Duricek, who owns an automotive repair business downtown.
Still if the casino goes through and Rossford and Toledo can reach an agreement sharing revenue from the
casino, he said he would endorse it.
Jim Richards said though he’s also not a fan of gambling other places "seem to be delighted to have
casinos as neighbors." If a casino is built, he said, "we should take advantage of having a
neighbor in our backyard that’s generating a lot of traffic and bringing a lot of people" to
Scott said it was a mater of making lemonade from lemons. "There’s some opportunity for
Rossford," he said, though he doubted the city would see much of an increase in hotel occupancy.
Eckel said the city needs "to develop a good relationship with Penn." While it "would be
really neat for downtown" to develop as a restaurant and entertainment district, she said, "we
have to be careful."
Michaels simply urged voters to go to the polls and vote their consciences on the issue.
(City Council at its meeting this week did approve a plan supporting the construction of the casino on a
5-0 vote. Duricek, Eckel and Richards voted in favor. Michaels abstained, later saying he had a conflict
of interest because of real estate interests.)
The candidates also discussed the difficulties of addressing an aging water and sewer system, especially
in housing developments.
Duricek said that there would be no cheap way to address the problem.
Richards said there’s not a single answer to all the problems, and they have to be looked at on a
neighborhood by neighborhood basis. If the city were to fund all the repairs, "I’m not sure we’re
going to be happy with the funding answer."
Michaels said he favored a "three-pronged approach" – in funding such improvements. The city
needs to mix money from its general fund, grants and assessments on users.
Scott said the projects are extremely costly, and the issue needs to be looked at to identify those most
in need of attention.
Eckel said grants are available, but noted that the city has been denied on the last few it applied for.
Residents she said can help by trying to keep storm run-off from going into the sewer system.
"We need to start where citizens are willing to step up," Eckel said, and pay some assessment
to have the job done.