He and a partner purchased the closed Kraft plant and donated it to Trumbull County to fix a sanitary sewage hazard for his community.
He gave the county more than $136,000 to cover costs associated with his donated factory.
Times Square operator Carol Wilson of Gustavus stands behind the counter at the popular Kinsman restaurant. Tribune Chronicle photo by R. Michael Semple
Because of its historical significance and architectural design documented in the Library of Congress, he purchased a home that had fallen into foreclosure.
To preserve this historic landmark in his community, he accepted Trumbull County's requirement to also take a bankrupt diner (owned by the same terminally ill and now deceased woman who owned the home).
Tens of thousands of dollars later, sewage problems at that diner, Times Square Restaurant, which caused Richard Thompson to tangle with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, have been fixed, but now the Kinsman businessman and the couple who run the eatery are in another scrum with the state.
This time it's over a $70,000 fine - which the OEPA says must be paid even though the problem is fixed. It's a fine that could drive out of business the restaurant whose operator says is known for ''mom and pop home cooking'' and whose customers say has been part of the bedrock in this farming community for more than six decades.
And this time, Thompson is at his wits end.
The complaint against the building, Thompson and restaurant operators Carol and Ken Wilson alleges they let raw or partially treated sewage be discharged from the restaurant into a tributary of Pymatuning Creek without a permit and that doing so created a nuisance and violated water quality standards.
In addition, the EPA accuses the owner and operators of modifying the system without first getting a permit to do so.
The complaint says the violations happened from July 2008 through October 2011, which covers the time from when Thompson bought the property at a sheriff's sale to when he and the Wilsons had installed a $21,000 Ohio EPA-approved disposal system.
Thompson said it's an ''overreach'' and ''selective enforcement'' for the OEPA to ask the state attorney general to bring court action against him and the restaurant's operators.
An OEPA official said the attorney general's office was sought because an agreement on the fine could not be reached. Thompson offered to pay $3,500.
Thompson and his attorney, Steve Haughey, say they believe the restaurant is being targeted by the Ohio EPA. As proof, they point out that the OEPA is not addressing similar sewage issues elsewhere in the township, part of which has been identified as a potential health risk.
''How else can we look at this?'' Thompson asked. ''My neighbors are all doing the same thing and they didn't come after them.''
Haughey said the Ohio EPA is ''more than willing to sit back and wait'' on the homes and small businesses discharging waste without a permit, but ''then comes after the restaurant when everybody knows that central sewers are on their way.''
A more than $10 million project to connect 336 homes, businesses and other buildings, including Times Square, to sewers should begin next year. Ironically, that sewer project is the result of Thompson's Kraft plant, which he donated after plans for a business incubator never materialized.
Thompson and Haughey said that an attorney with the Ohio EPA indicated Thompson could afford the fine because he was a successful businessman.
Ohio EPA spokesman Mike Settles declined to comment on the complaint or on Thompson's and Haughey's other claims.
''We have had years of problems with sewage discharges from this property, beginning back in the '80s,'' Settles said. ''We're glad those problems seem to be corrected at this time, but we've been unable to reach an agreement with this party (on the fine), so we have referred to the attorney general's office to do so.''
Thompson inherited the problem when he accepted the restaurant along with previous owner Alice Blaemire's home in a sheriff's sale. Thompson said he bought Blaemire's home because of its historical significance.
The next year he agreed to sell the restaurant to the Wilsons through a land contract and he also received notice from the Ohio EPA about environmental infractions. Negotiations with the state eventually led to the installation of a new treatment system, which pumps the waste from the restaurant to a leach bed on property Thompson owns next to the restaurant.
Thompson and the Wilsons shared the cost of the system.
That didn't stop the OEPA from issuing its fine.
Attorney general's office spokesman Mark Moretti said at least two ''meaningful discussions'' resulted in a temporary solution, but the sides ''could not reach a full and final resolution.''
''And, of course, these discussions were preceded by Ohio EPA's efforts over many years to have problems resolved,'' Moretti said in an email.
According to the complaint, Blaemire sought a discharge permit from the Ohio EPA in May 2001. The EPA gave one for the restaurant in August 2001 with restrictions that included maximum pollutant levels, monitoring, reporting and a schedule for repairs and upgrades.
Blaemire died in March 2004. The discharge permit was not renewed when it expired in August 2006 because the restaurant had fallen out of compliance.
Tests done in 2008 and again two years later concluded the systems was not in compliance, according to the complaint, but Thompson argues tests he had done show the discharge was so minimal, it couldn't be recorded.
''If it was that bad, they should have been here and locked the doors,'' Wilson said.