Problems follow land purchase

The Trumbull Metropolitan Housing Authority’s pursuit of senior housing on Parkman Road draws into question the environmental report that prevented Warren City Schools from constructing a new building on the same property.

Other circumstances surrounding the potential sale of 2501 Parkman Road from the schools to TMHA raise more questions about how taxpayer money is being spent.

TMHA wants the land next to Trumbull Plaza to build a 60-unit senior apartment complex there. The $12.9 million complex, if approved, would replace 135 apartment units at TMHA’s Riverside apartments on Tod Avenue.

The Warren Board of Education purchased the 17-plus acres in 2004 for $475,000. It was the proposed site to replace the now razed Warren Western Reserve Middle School. But the school board learned that the property contained protected wetlands. A report indicated that it would cost $600,000 to $800,000 to mitigate sensitive land.

The decision to purchase the property in 2004 was considered so irresponsible that the Board of Education hired a Cleveland attorney to figure out whom to blame. It turns out the school board members themselves decided to buy the property even though they possessed the environmental study that warned about potentially sensitive wetlands.

Now TMHA is offering $240,000 for the land. The school board has made little to no attempt to market this land; it is content to lose more than $200,000 on the sale.

In addition, Warren schools, which took the property off the tax rolls nine years ago, would keep it off the tax rolls by selling to the non-profit TMHA.

Even more outrage could be on the way for TMHA if, despite widespread publicity around the school board’s unconscionable purchase in 2004, takes on a nearly $1 million wetland mitigation with taxpayer money. Unless, of course, school officials nine years ago fabricated the environmental reports to avoid constructing another school on the west side. If that’s the case, then a serious investigation is in order.

TMHA should also explain the cost of its apartments before committing taxpayer dollars to the construction. The housing authority plans to spend $215,000 per unit on the complex.

Clover Management proposed a senior complex for Warren, at $83,000 per unit, but pulled out after neighbors protested the construction. Niles recently completed its Edison Place senior apartments for $170,000 per unit.

The YWCA is building downtown apartments at $175,000 per unit. Included in the price is filling in its swimming pool. The Warner House senior apartments downtown is renovating for $183,000 per unit. The TMHA cost does not include the Riverside demolition.

In many ways, it seems, taxpayers continue to lose on the original debacle from nine years ago.