MAHONING COUNTY Council discusses moving court
Councilmen want to talk over the terms of the lease with county commissioners.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- City councilmen want to keep the 7th District Court of Appeals in the city, but they want to make sure the city's interests are served if the court moves to the city's former annex at Market and Front streets.
Under the proposal, the four-judge appellate court, which covers eight counties, would move from its cramped quarters on the fourth floor of the Mahoning County Courthouse to the third floor of the annex next year.
The city would transfer ownership of the annex to Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp. to oversee the project.
Councilmen discussed the matter at a finance committee meeting Tuesday. Chairman James E. Fortune Sr., D-6th, and committee members Richard Atkinson, R-3rd, and John R. Swierz, D-7th, said they want to keep the appellate court in the city.
Artis Gillam, D-1st, suggested, and Swierz, Fortune and Atkinson agreed, they'd like to discuss the lease arrangement with county commissioners.
"I don't think we've had enough time to really look at the whole situation and the advantages or disadvantages" of the proposed lease, Swierz said.
Details: With the seven other counties in the court's jurisdiction contributing, Mahoning County commissioners would lease space for 20 years at $9.95 per square foot, including utilities, cleaning and security, or $155,000 a year, for the court of appeals.
"Can we enter into a 20-year lease without any options to open it up for increases?" Swierz asked, referring to possible future increases in utility and cleaning costs. "I'm not comfortable with entering into a 20-year lease" under those terms, he said.
Also under the lease proposed by the county and the CIC, the Mahoning-Columbiana Training Association, which now occupies part of the building, would pay $146,250 annually.
CIC has pledged to invest some $3.2 million into renovating the building, including restoration of the former federal bankruptcy courtroom, where the court of appeals would be located.
Projected costs: In a May 25 letter to Mayor George McKelvey, Carmen S. Conglose Jr., the city's deputy director of public works, wrote that a minimum of $1.6 million in capital improvements to the annex would likely be needed over the next five years just to accommodate the current occupants, MCTA and the city's Community Development Agency.
Another $1 million in renovations are projected to accommodate additional occupants in now-vacant space in the building, he wrote.
MCTA now pays $54,000 a year in rent to the city, and CDA pays no rent, but actual operating expenses for the annex last year were $91,363, Conglose wrote.
Swierz said he is perplexed by the proposal to increase MCTA's rent by $92,250 a year.
Atkinson said he is disturbed by a proposal that CDA begin paying $54,000 a year in rent to CIC, which is an agent of city council. "I'm not going to give up a building and turn around and pay rent for a building that we already own,'' he said.
Besides accommodating the appellate court, councilmen also said another of their goals is to find suitable new space for municipal court, which now occupies cramped, poorly-ventilated quarters in city hall.