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Youngstown residents lose big in Chill-Can troubles

Judge Maureen Sweeney was correct, we believe, in her decision recently to side with a magistrate and the city of Youngstown when she ruled that the owner of the Chill-Can commercial site must pay back the taxpayers some

$1.5 million in grant money the city allocated in a deal struck more than six years ago.

According to the contractual interpretations made by city officials and the judge, property owner M.J. Joseph Development Corp. “breached the agreements” by failing to construct four finished buildings on Youngstown’s East Side and create 237 jobs by Aug. 31, 2021. Instead, the property today holds three unfinished buildings and just one employee.

Sweeney also believes further damages could be warranted, and indicated that she intends to set a hearing to determine such.

We aren’t surprised by the judge’s ruling. Sadly, we also won’t be surprised if this legal battle brews on. The ugly dispute already has been percolating for far too long.

Ground was broken in November of 2016 on a research and manufacturing plant that was supposed to produce the world’s only self-chilling beverage can. At the time, M.J. Joseph had said the project would cost about $18.8 million and be in full operation by 2018.

Then on July 27, 2017, an “amended and restated development agreement” required M.J. Joseph to construct four buildings and employ 237 workers by Aug. 31, 2021.

Before entering the agreement, “the city law department made clear” to Mitchell Joseph by letter dated March 28, 2017, to his attorney that if the Chill-Can owners “failed to fulfill their obligations, the city would seek or could seek a number of specific remedies in addition to monetary damages. Plaintiffs chose to enter” into the agreement, according to Sweeney’s decision.

The city now estimates its losses in the millions of dollars.

The real losers in all this, though, are the residents of Youngstown. They are the taxpayers who footed the bill for the grants in the first place. They also are the property’s neighbors who have been living next to the wasted space for a half-decade. Even worse, they are the residents who lived on the property, but were uprooted to make way for the so-called development. And they are the workers who held high hopes at the promise of decent-paying jobs on the end of town where manufacturing jobs are few.

All these people were let down, and after all this time, there appears to be little alternative than airing the matter in a court of law.

It also appears that the legal team representing Chill-Can is not ready to give up its defense. After Sweeney’s ruling, Brian Kopp, an M.J. Joseph attorney, said : “We will review the decision with our client and proceed forward. As ordered by Judge Sweeney, we will obtain dates for the necessary hearings and trial.”

The looming legal battle is unfortunate, and it’s pretty clear that no matter what the outcome, there will be no true winners — only many, many losers.

editorial@vindy.com

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