Girard talks about lakes

GIRARD – The city is involved in talks with an unnamed group proposing to develop the upper and lower lakes, city officials confirmed Friday.

The details of the proposal, including the potential buyer, have not been made public, but Mayor James Melfi said he believes an agreement is possible.

“I can’t get into any specifics, but I’ve been here for 14 years, and I’ve not seen a more viable proposal than this one,” Melfi said.

A group met with city officials in executive session during Tuesday night’s regular city council meeting. The closed-door session was to discuss the possible sale of city land, an allowable exemption under Ohio law. Those involved in the executive session came and went without commenting publicly on the discussions.

Melfi called the proposal a “21st century” development which would include renovations to the infrastructure at the site.

“We’re talking about residential and commercial development, and it would be self contained,” Melfi said of the proposal. “Also, it’s very important that people understand the lakes would absolutely stay public, and the roads would remain public.

“The city wouldn’t be selling the lakes. It would be more of a partnership,” he said.

Girard purchased the lakes for $2.5 million from the Ohio Water Service in 1995 in hopes of developing a water source, officials said. However, financial issues made necessary replacement of the lakes’ dam and other expenses impossible. The city fell into fiscal emergency in 2001.

In 2006, to satisfy safety mandates set by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the city decided to breach the dam. That process essentially drained the lower lake.

The lakes have been closed down since the breaching of the dam. While the city was able regain its financial footing by getting out of fiscal emergency last year, funding to make needed repairs and re-open the lakes have not been available.

Now, Melfi believes the city may have a deal to address these issues.

“Along with developing, it would bring in much needed infrastructure and, after that, bring in much needed tax dollars,” Melfi said. “It’s very exciting for the city.”

City officials said more details will emerge as talks continue to progress.