Plaza damages are from normal wear and tear, the county says.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County has answered a 1.1 million breach-of-lease suit from the landlord for its Department of Job and Family Services with a counterclaim seeking cancellation of the lease or 1.1 million plus 11,735 for roof repairs the county says it was improperly forced to pay for.
The 1.1 million suit was filed in August by the Ohio Valley Mall Co., a division of the Cafaro Co., which owns Garland Plaza on the city's East Side, where the county has leased space for JFS since 1988.
The Cafaro suit alleges that the county has neglected a broad range of maintenance and repairs at JFS quarters in the plaza in violation of the lease.
The suit, which is assigned to Visiting Judge Richard M. Markus, says the county is responsible under the lease for repairs to all parts of the roof other than the support beams.
But, in its recently filed answer to the suit, the county said the lease requires the landlord -- Ohio Valley Mall -- to maintain Garland's structural systems, which includes the roof.
In its counterclaim, the county seeks either to cancel the lease or to have the Cafaro Co. pay 1.1 million to the county and reimburse the county for the 11,735 it spent in 2004 to hire Sky Roofing Co. of Boardman to repair the plaza's leaky roof.
The county says Ohio Valley refused to fix the roof unless the county agreed to a rent increase and a prolonged lease with the company.
In its answer to the Cafaro suit, the county also says the damages the landlord alleges the county is responsible for "are caused by reasonable wear and tear and are not recoverable under the lease."
Atty. David Betras filed the original suit against the county on behalf of Ohio Valley Mall shortly after the county bought Oakhill Renaissance Place -- the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center -- in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The county plans to move JFS to Oakhill and turn Oakhill into a government office center.
The county's answer and counterclaim were prepared by Paul J. Gains, county prosecutor; Linette M. Stratford, chief assistant prosecutor in the office's civil division; and Gina DeGenova Bricker, another assistant prosecutor.