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Ripples in Plan For New Waterfront: City, Architects Disagree Over Project

Tuesday, August 8, 2000 at 3:59 PM

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Cleveland City Council and Mayor Michael White's administration are in dispute over architectural contracts for the Northcoast Harbor and waterfront development. 90.3's Janet Babin reports.

Janet Babin- Last month mayor Michael White unveiled an ambitious proposal to further develop the Cleveland waterfront area. Architects from VOA Associates in Chicago worked with the city for about a year to design a family fun center at the intersection of East 9th street and the Shoreway across from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The plans include an aquarium, ferry terminal, a Ferris wheel, carousel, public fishing pier, a marina and a lighthouse.

The city says VOA architects worked on four discreet projects to create the proposed designs, but Cleveland city council says the architectural firm worked on only one project (and) that the mayor’s administration broke it into four projects to escape council review. According to the city charter, all contracts in excess of $10,000 must be authorized by City Council and must go to the lowest bidder. City purchase orders for the four VOA waterfront projects were written on the same day, March 9th, 2000, and all were for less than $10,000 - but more than $9,500. City Council President Michael Polensik calls the VOA projects a clear violation of the city’s charter rules.

Michael Polensik- We know now that VOA was told specifically to break it up to avoid legislative scrutiny. We know what you did - you broke it up to get around us.

JB- Council held a special meeting Monday afternoon to question the administration about the four contracts. Attorney Barbara Marburger was hired by council to review the VOA contracts. She testified at the special hearing about a conversation she had with one of the VOA architects, Daniel Mitchell.

Barbara Marburger- He said the work was broken up into bite size pieces…

JB- But Ken Silliman, executive assistant to the mayor on development issues, told council that it was his decision to give VOA four distinct contracts, in order to maintain accountability on the projects. Silliman told council that…

Ken Silliman- ...we did nothing wrong - the work just evolved.

JB- Even though the work has been done, Council says the issue isn’t over. Finance committee chairman Bill Patmon says he still doesn’t think council’s gotten to the bottom of this issue, and he doesn’t think council will stop until they do. In Cleveland, Janet Babin, 90.3 WCPN 90.3 FM.

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