LIMA - While a city council member is making public his concerns about industrial park land for a water tower, city and development officials said those concerns are not based in fact.
First Ward Councilman Ray Magnus, in a letter to the editor in today's paper, voiced concerns about Mayor David Berger and Allen Economic Development Group President Marcel Wagner's involvement in promoting the land for the city's purchase.
The land, about five acres in Central Point Business Park, was to be purchased by the city for a new water tower. The purchase is now on hold as officials investigate other options.
Wagner said Friday he did not assist the city in its land search and had only one role, responding to an inquiry about land he markets.
In addition to his duties as development group president, Wagner is secretary of the Allen County Development Corp., a nonprofit group that owns the Central Point Business Park, and markets the land.
"I responded to (city Utilities Director) Gary Sheely's inquiry about the Central Point lot the same way as I would to any interested buyer," Wagner said.
Later, Wagner answered a question in passing from Sheely about land across the road from Central Point, saying he believed the owner did not want to subdivide the land. That information led Sheely to not investigate its purchase. That land has since been deemed not feasible. When a third option became known after Sheely said the Central Point was the best land available, he agreed to invite all area property owners to submit proposals.
Magnus also said he was concerned about "close ties" between Central Point investors and board members and Berger. Asked if he was implying the city focused on the Central Point land because the mayor is on the board, Magnus said other people should be asked that question.
Magnus is making allegations "with no foundation," Berger said.
"He truly is maligning people with no factual basis and he's making every effort to keep the dust kicked up for his own political purposes," Berger said.
Berger has been a member of the board since its inception in the early 1990s. When he first ran for mayor, Berger pledged to help create an industrial park, something the area didn't have at the time.
When Sheely asked Berger about land in Central Point, Berger directed him to Wagner, Berger said. Berger participated in the board's discussion about selling the land, but abstained from the vote.
Neither Wagner, nor Allen Economic Development Group, is compensated for the work Wagner does on behalf of Central Point. Neither Wagner nor Berger is an investor in the park.
David Yohe, a Central Point investor and board member who represents all investors, said, "I can see no substance in Mr. Magnus' claims."
Law Director Tony Geiger investigated the situation and said he found no wrongdoing or conflict of interest.
Sheely has said he "could have done a better job handling the project," Geiger said. "He received a fair amount of criticism that he took without complaint and there's nothing more to it than that."