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Initial Oakhill costs set at $6M



Published: Thu, August 10, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The purchase alone will cost the county about $1 million, officials said.

By NANCY TULLIS

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- To move Mahoning County Job and Family Services into Oakhill Renaissance Place as soon as possible, the county will have to borrow at least $6 million, county officials said.

During the first meeting of the newly formed building commission, officials said acquiring the property will cost about $1 million, and an additional $5 million will be needed to prepare it for new tenants. Plans are to borrow what is needed, then pay the loans back with rent paid by tenants.

County Administrator George Tablack said he has at least $5 million in annual bills from the cost of having county offices in leased buildings all over the county, including security, facility maintenance and utility costs. Those costs for JFS, for example, are about $480,000, he said.

Commissioner Anthony Traficanti has said since discussion of Oakhill Renaissance Place first began that the county could pay the building's operating expenses with the rent paid by tenants, who would largely be county agencies that are now paying rent to private landlords.

High costs

Tablack said he is making arrangements to pay to JP Morgan Chase a $100,000 loan on Oakhill that was due Tuesday. He also said the money is available to pay the bankruptcy court $75,000 to buy Oakhill.

Tablack said the goal is to move JFS into Oakhill as soon as possible, but he emphasized that architects and the JFS director would have to determine the moving date.

Commissioner John McNally IV said after the meeting the $5 million figure for improvements needed at Oakhill before JFS could move in is a rough estimate, and no firm figures on the move have been determined.

McNally said he was glad the cost of buying Oakhill was discussed Wednesday as $1 million or more, since the purchase price discussed most often been $75,000. The $75,000 is the cost to the bankruptcy court for the purchase, but there are outstanding loans on the property, including a $450,000 loan from Ohio Department of Development that has about $430,000 left to pay.

Critics

McNally, Treasurer John Reardon and Auditor Michael Sciortino oppose the purchase because they question the legality of some actions that led to the county's buying the property through bankruptcy court. The three officials filed a motion to block the sale before the final hearing in bankruptcy court, but were overruled.

McNally said the Ohio attorney general's office has one objection, however, and representatives from the attorney general's office will address those concerns in a hearing Sept. 20 in bankruptcy court.

McNally said the attorney general's office and Southside Community Development Corp., the owners of Oakhill who filed bankruptcy, were not properly notified of the county's intent to buy the building. He said a notification at least 20 days before the final hearing is required by law.




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