By Sean Barron
Mahoning County bought Oakhill Renaissance Place on the city’s South Side in 2006 for about $75,000, but by year’s end, the building could incur close to $11.5 million in debt, a county official said.
Carol McFall, chief deputy auditor, noted during a special bond-counsel meeting Wednesday with commissioners and other officials that Mahoning County will likely have to borrow about $3.5 million in October for a variety of improvement projects to the former Southside Medical Center complex on Oak Hill Avenue.
The main purpose of the two-hour session was to discuss the county’s borrowing needs, including funds for Oakhill, and assess its debts, McFall said.
The $3.5 million would go toward making repairs to more than 40,000 square feet of roof, upgrading fire alarms, refurbishing restrooms, repairing a parking deck and other work.
That’s in addition to the original $5 million the county borrowed to make renovations to Oakhill, along with an estimated $2.9 million to buy chillers for the building’s air-conditioning system.
Also, the Mahoning County Building Commission awarded a $3.03 million contract to Youngstown-based Prout Boiler, Heating and Welding Inc. to install a new heating system at Oakhill. More than $2.6 million in federal stimulus dollars is going toward the work, but the county doesn’t have the money in hand to pay for the rest of the contract and for the cost of buying the boilers, McFall said.
McFall has said that the $8 million borrowed for the improvements has been nearly exhausted and that the additional $3.5 million was vital to finish necessary work.
Commissioner Anthony T. Traficanti questioned the higher cost of the boilers, noting that the original grant was for about $2.6 million, yet the bid came close to $3.4 million.
Nevertheless, he said, the new system of 13 boilers in six locations will save the county thousands of dollars in the long run over relying on steam, Oakhill’s primary heating source.
Traficanti also said he wondered where the county will come up with the $12 million needed to make major repairs to the 100-year-old Mahoning County Courthouse. The commissioner added that he was perplexed by the $12 million figure after having been told the work would be between $5.5 million and $6 million.