YOUNGSTOWN Mahoning County sets deadline on annex lease offer

The city's uncertain financial situation is holding up plans to move the appeals court to the city hall annex.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County has given the city until Sept. 3 to decide if it will provide space at its city hall annex to house the 7th District Court of Appeals, or the county will look elsewhere.
In a letter to Youngstown officials, county Administrator Gary Kubic wrote that if no response is received by Sept. 3, the offer to lease space at the downtown annex will be withdrawn.
"It is our understanding that the city of Youngstown is not preparing a response to our offer to lease the space," Kubic wrote. "We would appreciate your answer as soon as possible."
Kubic could not be reached Thursday to comment on his letter.
Uncertainty: City officials say the county has been patient during this process and the city will do all it can to nail down this proposal. But Youngstown's uncertain financial situation is a major concern.
The county had wanted an answer by July 31, but agreed to postpone a decision until Sept. 3 to give the city enough time to get a better picture of its finances.
The city hall annex, on the southwest corner of Market and Front streets, needs about $3.2 million worth of improvements before the court of appeals could move there. The county has leased space at the annex for the past year for the Mahoning-Columbiana Training Association.
The appeals court has been looking to relocate from the cramped quarters of the fourth floor of the county courthouse, across the street from the city hall annex, for several years. The county wants to move the appeals court to the annex, which would keep the entity in downtown Youngstown and free up space at the county courthouse.
"I'm hoping this is a possibility, but I don't know because of the funding," said council President Charles Sammarone. "If this doesn't work out, we have no one else stepping forward to go in as a tenant. If we let properties go and don't rehab them, then you have nothing to do but tear them down."
Borrowing money: The city wants to borrow money for several downtown projects, including the annex improvement, but that may be out of the question.
The city's income tax collections are about $800,000 less than at this time last year, and there have been several business shutdowns in the city this year. City officials say Youngstown, which has about a $400,000 surplus, could face a $400,000 deficit this year without budget cuts.
Because of that, borrowing money to pay for the annex rehabilitation project is more difficult, said Councilman Rufus Hudson, D-2nd and chairman of the body's buildings and grounds committee.
"It's fiscally impossible to get a substantial bond rating when you have a negative cash flow," Hudson said. "We have a decision to make: Do we try to get a bond rating and see what the potential bond market is, or do we let this project go? I favor finding out what our bond rating is. We don't want to lose the courts."

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