Now that the City of Toledo is determined to acquire almost 30 houses in the Collins Park Avenue neighborhood in Toledo, questions are finally being asked. Without question, clean water is a basic necessity of our society. The federal government propounds mandates which must be followed. These mandates are necessary to protect the public from unsafe water. At the same time, there is no certainty as to what Toledo's plans are in its proposed plant expansion. Is the community premature in acquiring land adjacent to the plant?
Enter the Birmingham Development Corp., representing the Birmingham neighborhood. This group generally concerns itself with running the Birmingham Ethnic Festival once a year -- the ethnicity involved being primarily Hungarian. It is now thrust into the position of being a neighborhood preservation group. These folk, whose core is about 50 people, are anything but firebrands. Their chairman is a retired Catholic priest and longtime neighborhood pastor -- the Rev. Frank Eckart. One of their spokesmen says that he wants to be "respectful" of city government. "We don't want to take off the gloves," he says. But they ask some very reasonable questions: ● Shouldn't the city have a plan for the new water plant before it takes houses? ● Shouldn't the people in the Birmingham neighborhood be a part of the planning process and not simply be told what to do? ● Shouldn't as many houses as can be saved be saved? The group asked the city for a moratorium on the buying of homes on Collins Park. The city said no. It next asked for a moratorium on the destruction of homes. Couldn't the city rent out the homes until it is proven that this stretch of land is needed for the plant improvements? The response was that the city is not in the landlord business. (And the city is granting inside salvage rights to those who sell, which means those homes will never be homes again.) In an early meeting with Collins Park residents and their neighbors, Public Utilities Director David Welch acknowledged that the city did not yet have a plan for the water plant and that the neighbors had a point: They should, he wrote in a May 13 letter, "... have clear definition about what is happening in their neighborhood." But he also made clear that the city was moving ahead with plans to buy houses on Collins Park and, once purchased, to "demolish" and "grade" the properties.