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Plaza's owner demands repairs



Published: Wed, August 9, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The county's legal interpretation of the lease is substantially different from Cafaro's, an official said.

By NANCY TULLIS

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- In the midst of controversy about funding Mahoning County's purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place, Auditor Michael Sciortino now also wants to know how county commissioners plan to pay as much as $879,000 in repairs needed at McGuffey Plaza.

Sciortino gave The Vindicator a copy of a letter Tuesday that he sent to Mahoning County commissioners along with a letter and building assessment report from James Dobran, attorney for Ohio Valley Mall Co., stating the county is in violation of its McGuffey Plaza lease because needed repairs haven't been made.

Dobran sent the report to commissioners July 28 with an itemized list of repairs needed at the plaza, where Job and Family Services is a tenant. Dobran itemized repairs and cited portions of the lease that state the repairs are the county's responsibility.

Sciortino asked commissioners to advise him of their "intended course of action" to deal with needed repairs and maintenance at the plaza.

"I have reviewed the document and am concerned about the financial liability raised in the demand, which totals nearly $720,000 to $879,000," he wrote.

Dobran said the landlord recently completed an inspection of McGuffey Plaza and lists repairs, replacement items and maintenance, which are the county's responsibility under the lease agreement.

But County Administrator George Tablack said the county prosecutor has "a significantly different interpretation" of the lease.

Tablack would say only that those differences are substantial. He referred questions about the Oakhill purchase to county Prosecutor Paul Gains, who is the county's legal counsel. Gains is out of town until next week.

Among the listed items are $354,667 for roof repairs; $326,458 for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system replacement; $160,200 for carpeting; $36,950 to replace eight doors; $1,130 for ceiling repairs; and $200 for wall repairs.

Dobran said the lease agreement states the tenant agrees to keep and maintain the premises in good condition and repair, and to replace equipment and make repairs, when appropriate, at its own expense.

"Tenant is in default of its lease as a result of its failure to maintain, repair or replace portions" of the premises, he reported.

Ohio Valley Mall Co. is owned by developer Anthony Cafaro Sr.

Commissioners Anthony Traficanti and David Ludt voted to buy Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center, and have said they want to move Job and Family Services and other county offices into the former hospital.

Commissioner John McNally IV has opposed the move. McNally, Sciortino and Treasurer John Reardon filed a motion to block the sale before the bankruptcy court hearing, but failed.

In a meeting with The Vindicator in June, Cafaro warned of relocation costs. He said the potential relocation of JFS to Oakhill Renaissance Place presents considerable uncertainty over renovation and occupancy costs.

Cafaro also said a 2004 proposal by the Cafaro Co. to spend $1.5 million to renovate the plaza and raise the county's rent to $6.86 per square foot still stands. He said the new rent amount would still be well under current industry standards.

Cafaro said the county has paid $4.61 per square foot for about 97,000 square feet -- about $450,000 per year -- since 1998.

tullis@vindy.com




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