The administration of Mayor James J. Melfi and city council should let it be known that the city of Girard would be willing to consider proposals for the purchase of Girard Lakes property on one condition: the dams must be part of any deal.
It would be the height of government irresponsibility to sell only the prime sections of the property to private interests and keep those parts that will continue to be a drain on the public treasury.
As the recent state performance audit of Girard government noted, "The city has paid, and is obligated to pay, annual debt payments of $234,900 for these assets (two lakes, dams and surrounding areas) which produce little financial benefit to the city."
It's time that the mayor and council faced reality: There's water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.
Melfi recently told council that six individuals from the area have inquired about buying at least part of the city-owned property. He didn't identify them. But as Councilman Joseph Christopher, D-at-large, pointed out, it is difficult for lawmakers to make any decisions when the administration itself isn't clear on what should be done with the property.
The city purchased the two lakes and some surrounding land in 1995 for $2.51 million in anticipation of developing a source of drinking water for Girard and the surrounding communities. However, the plan never materialized because the city has not been able to come up with the money for a water filtration plant. In addition, the question of what to do about the dams has never been fully answered.
Structurally unsound: As the audit by the Ohio Auditor's Office stated, "City management asserts the lower dam has been declared structurally unsound by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and approximately $10 million is needed to repair the dams."
That's $10 million the city of Girard does not have and is unlikely to have in the foreseeable future. Given that city government's finances are under the supervision of a state oversight commission, the mayor and council have more important things to worry about, such providing police and fire protection for residents, than getting bogged down in lengthy discussions about the Girard Lakes property.
"Resolving the lakes issue should be a city priority," the state audit advises. "The city must determine whether to sell the property or develop the lakes into a potable water source. Alternatively, the city should also consider whether the surrounding property should be developed into a residential area. Finally, the city should consider whether a combination of these or other alternatives may be more appropriate."
Given Girard's current financial condition, the lakes and the dams are a burden city government should get rid of -- as quickly as possible.