Northland Heating and Cooling founder William J. Tinsky used to come home from his job as a chrome buffer for General Motors and, instead of resting from his labors, would do what he could to support his four children.
He worked with a man who had a heating and cooling business while studying the trade in order to obtain a license of his own. Eventually, Tinsky got his license, bought a truck and, in 1966, began operating a heating and cooling business out of the garage of the family home in Forest Park.
"Thus the name, Northland Heating," said William C. Tinsky, the founder's son and now president of the firm.
About 35 years ago, William J. purchased property on Moon Road, just across Interstate 71 from Clintonville, and had a headquarters built for his growing enterprise. This included an iconic sign, identifying it as "Protech Services Northland Heating and Cooling," with a clock that, for decades, was clearly visible to motorists on I-71.
"People use that clock daily," William C. said last week.
Not so much any more.
"This is a freaking nightmare," Tinsky said.
On July 7, 2006, according to Ohio Department of Transportation District 6 communications manager Nancy Burton, "property owners received notification" of a proposed project that would extend a noise wall along I-71 in front of Northland Heating and Cooling. The following March 1, again according to Burton, "notification letters" regarding public meetings on March 14 and 21 were sent out about the extension of the sound wall.
Tinsky claims he never got any of them.
"We're pretty good about business and opening mail and reading it," he said.
"I don't have any knowledge of that," Burton said.
Bill Tinsky's "freaking nightmare" had begun.
Now, drivers on I-71 can catch glimpses of the Northland Heating and Cooling sign through two clear panels in the noise wall, but the busy yard of the business is totally obscured.
Tinsky said he had to pay $48,500 in order to get the clear panels installed and he's being asked to pay an additional $25,000 to go halves on extending the number of transparent panels in the wall by an additional three feet, as is the case at Calvary Temple Lighthouse to the north.
"In an effort to resolve this misunderstanding in what the noise wall was going to look like in front of Protech Northland and to provide additional visibility to the property, the Department of Transportation is willing to add additional clear panels in front of Protech Northland within the same limits of the 180-foot length," project engineer Andrew J. Opsitnik wrote in an April 26 letter to Tinsky. "The department is willing to split the additional cost, 50-percent each party, with Protech Northland to make this change."
"I'm not going to keep having an open checkbook," Tinsky said.
Instead of ODOT spending $25,000 for its portion of more clear panels in the noise wall, Tinsky said he asked for a maximum of $12,000 to increase the height of the sign.
"That was discussed with Mr. Tinsky and it was decided to go with the clear panels," Burton said.
She didn't say who made that decision, but Tinsky says it certainly wasn't him.
In a July 5 letter to ODOT District 6, Tinsky's attorney, Brent L. Baisden, wrote:
"First, Mr. Tinsky was assured that his freeway sign would be completely visible from the freeway. It is not. Approximately two feet of the bottom of Northland's freeway sign is presently blocked. ODOT has refused to compensate Northland for the expense of raising its freeway sign, which would cost approximately $8,000 to $12,000.
"Second, Mr. Tinsky (was) also assured that the Plexiglass wall would look just like the section of Plexiglass in front of the Lighthouse church, just north of Northland along I-71. However, Northland's panels are not as wide, causing the pillars to be closer and reducing visibility from the highway.
"In addition, the solid concrete panels are much taller," Baisden wrote. "Northland's lower panels are approximately 7 feet tall, while the lower panels at the Lighthouse church are approximately 3 feet. ODOT has agreed to split the cost of dividing the lower panel to increase visibility, but this is not acceptable."
"I've been backed into a corner here," Tinsky said. "ODOT, in its arrogance, said, 'Mr. Tinsky, we're ODOT. You're part of the right of way. We're going to do what we want.'
"I'm trying to be calm about this."
Northland Heating and Cooling specials used to be posted on the familiar sign.
"You've hurt my advertising," Tinsky said. "This is my livelihood. I don't know what it's going to do to people doing business with us, but, 'That's not my problem, Mr. Tinsky.' You get a little frustrated trying to get through the chain of command to see who might be sympathetic. It's just frustrating that nobody cares about the small businessman."
Asked to reply to Tinsky's allegations, Burton requested questions in writing, but then declined, in the main, to respond to specifics.
"I think I really want to kind of make two points, which I think is satisfactory," she said. "ODOT and Mr. Tinsky have been working together, communicating for several years, and we have tried to provide quality customer service and work with him on his needs.
"And I think that's sort of what I'm comfortable saying. I guess I and ODOT are respectful of the process. We negotiate and work with property owners, businesses, motorists, companies, the public, every day, and we're respectful that that is done one-on-one between the individual, the business and ODOT, and we had that with Mr. Tinsky, as we strive to have that with anyone or any business that has contact with ODOT."
The March 1, 2007, notification letter to property owners, which Tinsky says he never received, included a questionnaire asking if people wanted a noise wall and providing options for texture and examples of color, according to Burton.
"It's worth noting that of the questionnaires that were sent back to ODOT, nobody indicated that they didn't want a noise wall," she said. "That's pretty standard, actually."
Tinsky wonders why he had to shell out nearly $50,000 to get clear panels in front of his business, but the Calvary Temple Lighthouse got even greater visibility for, he said he was told by ODOT, no charge.
Several messages left with the church were not returned.
"That's something that was negotiated between ODOT and the church," Burton said. "You would have to contact the church. That doesn't have anything to do with Mr. Tinsky. That is another entity. That is a nonprofit worship group. I don't think Mr. Tinsky's business and a church are the same.
"Mr. Tinsky can obviously do and speak what he wants I've shared with you what I think I'm comfortable talking about regarding this process."
Looking glumly out of the window of his office at the sound wall a short distance away, Tinsky said he feels as if he's behind the walls of a prison. "Why do they have to be so tall here?" he asked.