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Toledo Council raises new concerns about plans for old Mott Branch library

Committee for the project says it didn’t get all the information
Toledo Council raises new concerns about plans for old Mott Branch library
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 10:09 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - A new life for Toledo’s former Mott Branch was thought to be a done deal. But now some city council members have serious issues with the process.

They say the African American community’s wishes are being ignored.

We told you about these plans in March. A neighborhood health clinic was the preferred choice to come into the former Mott branch library.

It would be run by a company called Compassion Health. Members of the committee that came up with the recommendation say they were not told one major piece of information.

Prenatal and other basic medical services Compassion Health provides in South Toledo are exactly what’s needed near the former Mott branch library on Dorr Street near Detroit Avenue.

“There are too many black babies dying. So I would never have and I have never been this mad on this dais. But do not personally attack me and say that I would ever say something that was not true about something I care so much about,” said Toledo City Councilwoman Vanice Williams.

Councilwoman Williams sat on the committee recommending the compassion health proposal after the city asked for requests. Williams says neither she nor the other committee members who signed a letter to the Mayor were ever told that Sandy Spang, the city’s Commissioner of Business Services who headed up the proposal process, joined Compassion Health’s board in 2019. She resigned a few months later.

“We need health care. So to personally attack the 5 individuals by saying our claims had no supported evidence. What do we have to lie for?” said Williams.

“In a very simple way to state this, I simply refute that charge. I did disclose to the committee,” said Spang.

As council discussed this at its Wednesday meeting, they received a letter from Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz saying the contract with Compassion Health is already signed and an ordinance to repeal selling the building for one dollar would do nothing.

He went on to say he understands situations like this are emotional and is aware of the claims being made by the committee. Kapszukiewicz says while well intentioned, the claims are not supported by evidence.

“This is not about emotion. And really I’m disappointed because if our mayor did his homework this is often what is said to African Americans when we’re angry that we’re emotional, that we’re out of hand. That we don’t understand the nature of the problem. Oh we understand it clearly,” said Toledo City Councilwoman Dr. Tiffany Preston Whitman.

“It is a complete insult to think that this process was properly vetted in the black community by African Americans. Y’all just don’t do stuff right. We might as well be tap dancing and shaking our butts and eating fried chicken and watermelon. Because that’s just what got said to us,” said Toledo City Councilman John Hobbs III.

“It is the case that we have a contract signed. The contract has been signed. I approached compassion health asking them if they want to back out and they said no,” said Mayor Kapszukiewicz.

Mayor Kapszukiewicz says he did exactly what council asked when it approved the original ordinance to sell the property. He says Spang did not have a legal obligation to disclose the board affiliation even as there is dispute if she did.

Several council members believe the voices of the African Americans which have such close historic ties to Dorr Street are being ignored.

“This letter says to me ‘respectfully from the mayor, the hell with y’all,” said Toledo City Councilwoman Cerrsandra McPherson.

“How much more do we need to see? How much more do the citizens of Toledo, African American citizens, Hispanic citizens. How much more do you need to see from this mayor that he don’t care about you. What else do you want to see? What else do you want to know,” said Hobbs.

“Of course I disagree with his assertation and by the way so do the voters. To some extent I’m reminded of the old quote from Franklin Roosevelt ‘Yep everyone hates me, except all the voters’” said Kapszukiewicz.

The other issue was the price tag. Some council members asked if every interested party was told it would be sold for a dollar. Spang told council that it was made clear at that public meeting involving the sale of the property that the amount of the sale was not important to the city. It was the community beneficial reuse that was most important.

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