NORTH CANTON City Council Monday debated a possible deal with OMNI Orthopaedics.
OMNI is considering building a new $10 million medical and surgical center near Whipple Avenue NW and Portage Street NW in Jackson Township on the North Canton border. The 30-year agreement would allow the company to purchase city water — OMNI would pay outside water rates and tap-in fees — but without a requirement to annex into the city.
The agreement would make OMNI one of the city's largest water customers.
In the past, North Canton has required outside businesses buying city water to agree to annex into the city. Last year, Council adopted legislation that changed that requirement.
In December, the city's Water Board approved an agreement for the six-acre property. It was time to bring the agreement to city council for approval, said Councilman Mark Cerreta, at-large. Cerreta is a member of the Water Board.
Because the property borders the city, some people think the city should force an annexation, Cerreta said. "That's never happened. That probably never will happen."
OMNI new's facility would revitalize a blighted area and bring new, well-paying jobs, he said.
The agreement presented to council Monday was still being negotiated Friday, said Law Director Tim Fox.
Council said they would not approve two provisions included in the agreement. One extends the no annexation agreement to "any subsequent owner, tenant or other user of the property." The second says that the water service agreement is tied to land, not to OMNI.
The city has been negotiating with OMNI for several months and those provisions were never discussed, said Councilwoman Marcia Kiesling, At-Large.
"The deal is with OMNI and OMNI alone," she said.
OMNI's board of directors plans to vote on whether to build on the site in the next two weeks, Fox said.
Even without those provisions, not all council members seemed on-board.
"I would discount the living bejusus out of this project to get them into town," said Councilman Daryl Revoldt, at-large.
The city shouldn't let this property be developed without trying to annex it, he said.
Mayor David Held cautioned against moving hastily, pointing at the Hoover District and the Hall of Fame Village as examples.
"If you lose an opportunity, you lose an opportunity. There's always another one that comes down the road," Held said. "I don't like the city to be manipulated into something that's not in our long-term bet interest... I think its real, real important that we make the right decisions."
Council will vote on the agreement at a special meeting Wednesday, 6 p.m., at City Hall.
Held indicated that he may veto council's decision.
Council held a moment of silence for Chris Baker, an road department employee who died of cancer over the weekend. Council last year passed legislation allowing employees to donate unused paid leave to coworkers in an effort to help Baker, said Council President Daniel "Jeff" Peters.
The city will post details of a benefit for Baker's family on its Facebook page and website.
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