OHIO LEATHER works site State AG’s office asks Girard to join new round of talks
By Danny restivo
The Ohio Attorney General’s office is asking city officials to participate in another round of negotiations over the former Ohio Leather Works site.
In a letter sent to Mayor James J. Melfi from George Horvath, senior assistant attorney general of the environmental enforcement section, Horvath offered city representatives an “opportunity to participate in settlement discussions.”
In May, the director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency requested Attorney General Mike DeWine to file suit against the property owner of the former Ohio Leather Works Site.
Mike Settles, Ohio EPA spokesman, said the agency had issued violations and findings to Navy Friends Inc. and Berk Realty Inc., both based in Maryland, but little change had occurred.
“They did not fully comply with our orders, so we sent it to the attorney general’s office,” Settles said.
A spokesman for the attorney general’s office is hoping to get city officials, Navy Friends and Berk Realty representatives together to resolve the issue amicably before a suit can be filed.
Navy Friends did not return phone calls. The Vindicator could not find a number for Berk Realty.
“The goal is to reach a settlement with all parties involved,” said Mark Moretti, the attorney general’s public-information officer. The office did not set a date or location for the discussions.
Ohio Leather Works operated along U.S. Route 422 for more than 70 years, taking skin hides from stockyards in Chicago and making leather apparel, until the tannery closed in 1971.
According to Vindicator records, Maryland investors bought the structure in 1995 with plans of turning it into an apartment complex, but arson gutted the facility that year.
After the fire, the city razed the building and placed the $75,000 cost on Navy Friends before working with the Ohio EPA in an effort to negotiate with the property’s owner.
Since 1998, the EPA has found a series of hazardous-waste violations, including traces of hexavalent chromium, the chemicals used on leather.
Melfi hopes the negotiations will result with the city obtaining the property. He said past discussions with the property’s owners have been less than satisfactory.
“We thought a couple years ago we had a done deal,” he said. “We get close, and then they bail out.”
He said his goal for the property is simple.
“The property has been idle since 1970, we just want to bring it back to productivity,” Melfi said.