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Sides frosty in Chill-Can talks

City attorney says no progress made in discussions

YOUNGSTOWN — City Law Director Jeff Limbian said no progress was made during a nearly two-hour meeting with the attorney for the Chill-Can project’s developer.

“Nothing new was brought to the table,” Limbian said of Friday’s meeting. “The expectation by them was to ask the city how to resolve this so they can have more time to make the right things happen. We’ve already given them time. We asked for solutions, and it doesn’t seem like those solutions are going to come.”

Limbian and Joseph Houser, an attorney hired by the city, met with Brian Kopp, an attorney representing Mitchell Joseph and his company, M.J. Joseph Development Corp., which owns the Chill-Can property on the city’s East Side.

“My client is committed to this project, but whether the differences with the city can be resolved is yet to be determined,” Kopp said.

In a March 29 certified letter, the city informed Joseph he had 60 days to construct a number of buildings and hire about 150 workers or it would file a lawsuit.

That lawsuit could seek to get back $1.5 million in water and wastewater funds given to the company, as well as repeal a 10-year tax abatement and about $400,000 the city paid to purchase 15 properties for the project. The lawsuit also could seek to take ownership of the land.

Joseph said in a Wednesday written statement: “Time is needed to complete the construction phase of the Youngstown complex and hire Valley residents so that we may begin to manufacture and distribute product.”

Limbian said Friday: “There clearly won’t be those jobs in the next year or so, and I assume we’ll be in court sooner rather than later.”

The 60 days are up May 28.

“Mr. Kopp is going back to Mitchell Joseph and see if there’s a way to resolve this,” Limbian said. “But we don’t expect anything to move so that we don’t end up in court.”

Kopp said Wednesday he was “confident that a mutually acceptable plan exists. However, if the city refuses to acknowledge the difficulties caused by the pandemic, I am prepared to defend the interests of the (Joseph company) and seek all legal remedies available to it.”

Joseph had said the project, which broke ground in November 2016, would cost about $18.8 million and be in full operation by 2018 to produce the world’s only self-chilling beverage can.

City records show Joseph has spent about $3.8 million on three buildings at the site while Joseph said he’s spent about $5 million.

Regarding the delays, Kopp said: “There were many unanticipated difficulties developing a company in Youngstown,” and then the COVID-19 pandemic caused further issues.

The company is supposed to hire 237 workers by Nov. 1, 2022, including 150 by now, according to city records.

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