Dorr Street Coalition Holds Elected Officials Accountable

By Tricia Hall
The Truth Reporter

The Dorr Street Coalition hold a community conversation on Monday, April 18, that invited Sandy Spang, the former Mott Branch Library’s new owner and Tom Gibbons to address community concerns that impact Dorr Street. The discussion was held at Jerusalem Baptist Church.

Once the meeting opened, the first topic on the agenda was the request for information process that led to the sale of the former Mott Branch Library to Compassion Health. Sandy Spang, City of Toledo Commissioner of Business Services opened this portion of the conversation. The City of Toledo had opened a request for proposals to select a nonprofit that would eventually purchase the former Mott Branch Library. According to sources from previous Dorr Street meetings, the applications were reviewed and the approval recommendations shared with Toledo City Council, which were ultimately confirmed. The application and approval process has become controversial in the past few weeks.

“I have tried to call you several times. I have a nonprofit that was going to buy the building because I thought it was going to be a cash sale,” shared Larry Sykes, former city councilman.

“I want to speak on and correct some matters about Mott Branch. We started talking about the new Mott Branch while we were inside the old Mott Branch, this happened back in 2016 not in 2019. There wasn’t a public meeting or publications, but it was myself, Yvonne Harper and Tyrone Riley. Let’s keep the facts straight,” explained Theresa Gabriel, former City Council member.

“This is a concern. Anytime that the city has a transaction, we must have a meeting with the current residents of Dorr Street. We need to ask them, is this what you want in your community. We missed the mark on this. When this was presented to City Council, I voted no, because we did not have a conversation with the community. Now, here we are back-peddling and trying to fix it. We got to do better. City Council knew when we voted to fix the Frederick Douglass Center, that they wanted to have a medical facility within the Center,” shared Cerssandra McPherson, current City Council member.

“The building is in excellent condition, Compassion Health committed to invest $500,000 and the application was evaluated by the committee. I’m sure that there were conversations before 2019, but the former Mott Branch Library was received by an ordinance in 2019. The RFP was transparent and public, because anyone could participate,” shared Spang.

The second portion of the community conversation invited Anne Ruch, PhD, CEO of Commission Health Toledo to publicly address the community following the controversy surround the former Mott Branch Library RFP process. Compassion Health Toledo has operated at 1638 Broadway Street as a nonprofit for five years.

“I see and hear your pain. I emphasis with you. I worked for ProMedica a lot of years ago and it bothered me when I would hear the person answering the phone ask about insurance, as their first question. I work with pregnant women, and would hear them say, ‘call back when you have insurance.’ Women in this community, black women and poor women need access to care. Got put it on my heart because I knew it wasn’t right. I wanted to stand up, so I purchased the building on Broadway about five years ago. Everyone that works at that location, see their job as a ministry. Either they aren’t paid or paid very little. I saw the request for proposals in the Blade and people even called me and said that I was doing good work. I applied and was surprised when the committee wanted to talk to me and next thing I knew, we got it,” shared Ruch.

“Would Compassion Health consider creating an urgent care or doing right by the Frederick Douglas Center to create an urgent care. That’s what this neighborhood is missing,” asked David Ross.

“My experience is that urgent care doesn’t provide good care, but in reference to the Frederick Douglass, I would be thrilled to work with anybody.  In reference to the radio station, when we sent in our proposal to the committee, we had an architect render drawings. Deborah and her group also had an architect too, but we both wanted to use the same areas of the building. When Sandy Spang called me and said that there was a strong recommendation that we include the radio station. I said, ‘would love to.’ The problem happened when both of us wanted to use the same space,” explained Ruch.

The final portion of the community conversation focused on the newly approved Dollar General on the corner of Dorr and Upton.

“The process of the Dollar General began back in 2017, when the area was rezoned. In 2021, Dollar General wanted to place a store location there which was considered a minor site planning review. The code doesn’t require a public hearing but we had a public hearing on August 12, 2021. Notices were sent to 20 individuals, plus a sign was posted. No one showed up to the meeting,” explained Thomas Gibbons, director of Plan Commission.

“On May 8, 2020, Councilman Riley had a moratorium on Dollar Stores, because they wanted to build one on the old St. Theresa site. The word got back to him and he partnered with Councilwoman Harper to find out why were they coming in the community. The St. Theresa site was blocked because the community was aware and got involved. I don’t know how this happened, but Dorr and Upton was kept secret. You can call it what you want, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out, that they didn’t want to the community to know. So, we don’t have a repeat of Dorr and Smead. A moratorium was from May to December in 2020, four new council members were brought on and three months later this moratorium expired. I serve District 1, no one mentioned this to me. We were never alerted to anything. We got new councilmembers on deck that don’t know nothing, let’s slip everything past them. Now this comes up. Nothing was said. Friday and Saturday, my phone is going crazy, people asking me how do you not know what’s going on in your district. I’m making phone calls and no one knows what is going on. This is not about you, Mr. Gibbons, you’ve been nothing but kind to me. But now that a store is going up next to another store, now they want to keep up aware,” explained John Hobbs III, City of Toledo District 1 councilman.

For information about the Dorr Street Coalition, contact Suzette Cowell, founder and CEO of Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union.