Moody's projects ticket price spikes at Cleveland Hopkins
Moody’s Investors Service expects the price of flights at Cleveland will spike, following United Airlines’ recent announcement to close its Hopkins hub. Moody’s says Hopkins’ airport costs, which were around $15 per passenger last year, could increase by more than ten dollars once United cuts daily flights from 200 to 72. Moody’s also says fewer passengers means less revenue from food and snacks at the airport, affecting finances and interest from other airlines. Moody’s says the move was “credit negative” for the airport, but it chose not to downgrade its debt rating. This week, Fitch downgraded Hopkins’ nearly $800 million in revenue bonds from A- to BBB+.
FirstEnergy to close plants ahead of schedule
Akron-based FirstEnergy is closing two of its Northeast Ohio power plants a year earlier than planned. The Plain Dealer reports that the Eastlake and downtown Lake Shore power plants will close this fall. All 165 employees will be moved to other facilities, or remain at Eastlake to operate new equipment. FirstEnergy announced two years ago it would close the coal-fired plants in 2015 to avoid meeting costly new EPA mandates. PJM Interconnection said that would make the power grid too unstable, and agreed to pay to keep the plants running while FirstEnergy built new lines to supply power. Those upgrades are expected to be completed this year, so PJM agreed Thursday to allow Eastlake and Lake Shore plants to close.
Historic Cleveland Stanley Block building lot up for auction
A small lot in downtown Cleveland where a historic building once stood is going up for auction and Cleveland’s casino is likely to bid. The Stanley Block building on Ontario Street was condemned and the city had it razed in 2012 after years of lawsuits and orders that owner Marcon either fix it up or tear it down. The property is in the middle of Cleveland’s new casino parking garage. The auction is February 18th. The Plain Dealer reports that both the Marcon family and casino group Rock Ohio Caesar’s are expected to bid.
Casino revenue figures to be released
Regulators are ready to release revenue figures for Ohio's casino industry, now in its third calendar year. As the January revenue figures are released today, industry watchers will be looking to see if Ohio's four casinos have rebounded from a lackluster December. Revenues at each of the four casinos declined in December. That led to the worst statewide showing in the nine months that all four casinos were open.
Convicted killer asks for third trial
Attorneys for a man twice convicted in the arson deaths of a Cleveland woman and eight children at a birthday sleepover have asked for a third trial. Defense attorneys for 30-year-old Antun Lewis asked the trial judge Thursday to throw out his second conviction as unfair because of widespread media coverage between the deadly 2005 fire and his trial. Lewis was convicted for a second time in December.
Former pharmacist sentenced for health care fraud
An ex-pharmacist has been sentenced to two years in prison and must pay over $300,000 in restitution after illegally filling prescriptions at Northeast Ohio pharmacy. 53-year-old Bruce Franken was sentenced in Akron Thursday after pleading guilty to health care fraud. Investigators say Franken filled prescriptions illegally at a Salem pharmacy between 2009 and 2011.
Kasich pushes for tax cuts
Governor John Kasich is stressing the need to cut Ohioans' taxes while maintaining that money does not buy happiness. The first-term Republican made the comments Thursday in wide-ranging remarks at the Ohio Newspaper Association's convention in Columbus. Kasich, who is up for re-election in November, said that reducing taxes was not just "some campaign deal." He said any tax cuts had to be a balance of achieving economic growth and ensuring the state has what it needs to function. The governor emphasized that he didn't see anything wrong with accumulating wealth, but he said he firmly opposes materialism. Kasich also told the industry group that he is writing another book. And the former Fox News commentator says he would eventually like to return to the media.
Prisons system to reimburse county for Castro autopsy
The state prisons agency has agreed to reimburse county taxpayers for the autopsy of Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro after his prison suicide last year. Gary Mohr, director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, cited the "unique and extraordinary" circumstances of Castro's September death at the Correctional Reception Center in Pickaway County. The Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday that Mohr agreed late last year to foot the $1,100 bill. Though Castro's autopsy was conducted in Franklin County, state law places the responsibility for autopsy costs on the county where the death occurred. The 53-year-old Castro hanged himself while awaiting transfer to a permanent prison to serve a life sentence plus 1,000 years for imprisoning and raping three women in his Cleveland home over a decade.
Copper thieves sentenced, ordered to pay nearly $300,000
The last of seven men accused of conspiring to steal copper from two dozen electrical substations in northeast Ohio has been sentenced to three years in prison. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Cleveland says 33-year-old Michael Butts of Brooklyn, Ohio, and the other defendants were ordered to pay First Energy Corp. about more than $242,000 in restitution for repairs. A message was left late Thursday for his attorney. Prosecutors say the thefts last year created a risk of blackouts and threatened utility workers' safety. Authorities say the copper was sold to scrap yards for more than $15,000. The defendants pleaded guilty to conspiring to damage energy facilities. Five sentenced earlier received prison terms ranging from 15 months to more than four years. One was given two years of supervised release.
Columbus residents blame city for school closings
Schools in Ohio's largest district are closed again, and Columbus residents are complaining loudly about the delays in getting side streets plowed after this week's snow storm. Columbus city schools decided to close for the third straight day today, blaming snow-covered secondary streets that had yet to see a plow. There was plenty of criticism aimed at city hall after the storm dumped more than 10 inches of snow Tuesday night and Wednesday. Buy Mayor Michael B. Coleman defended the city's snow-removal efforts, telling The Columbus Dispatch that "I can't make everything right for everybody."
Ashtabula County wrestling coach facing charges stemming from bullying
An Ashtabula County wrestling coach faces criminal charges for allegedly failing to report an incident of bullying. County prosecutors say Lakeside High Coach Jerry Brady witnessed a member of the wrestling team beating up another boy on school property and did nothing to stop it or report it. The boy required hospital treatment. Brady was put on paid leave. The school board is conducting its own investigation.
Inspector General questions ODNR cooperation with hunting investigation
The state Inspector General is questioning whether Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials withheld records during an investigation into 18 wildlife officers accused of hunting on the job. ODNR said the charges were the result of a management problem with record-keeping, not the officers falsifying time cards. All but one officer was allowed to resume their duties this week. The Columbus Dispatch reports that the Inspector General’s office now says ODNR did not provide the records it needed for its investigation. ODNR says nothing was held back, and that it fixed the time-keeping problem before the investigation.
Olympians have Ohio connections
Six members of the US Olympic team have Ohio connections, including three women from northeast Ohio. Oberlin-born Speedskater Kelly Gunther lived in Lorain until she was 11 and still has family there. Hockey player Brianne McLaughlin grew up in Sheffield Village and graduated from Elyria Catholic. Kelli Stack also plays on the hockey team. She grew up in Brooklyn Heights and graduated from Cuyahoga Heights High School.