‘Grandstanding’ delays refinancing
Hotel loan restructuring vote coming next week
YOUNGSTOWN — A lone councilwoman, accused by her fellow members of “grandstanding,” was able to stop the legislative body from approving an ordinance to restructure a loan to the owner of the downtown DoubleTree by Hilton hotel to be repaid over the next 25 years.
City council will vote again next Wednesday on the legislation and is expected to approve it on its third reading.
But at a Thursday special meeting, Councilwoman Samantha Turner, D-3rd Ward, voted against suspending council rules to vote on the loan refinancing by emergency measure. It takes six votes to approve ordinances by emergency vote and with Councilman Jimmy Hughes, D-2nd Ward, unable to attend because of a medical issue, only five council members were in support of the proposal.
Youngstown Stambaugh Hotel LLC, which owns the hotel, is refinancing all of its debt related to property at 44 E. Federal St.
The company failed to make any payments to the city on the $700,000 loan with the first monthly payment due December 2019. The money was borrowed in December 2016 with an agreement that repayments would be deferred for three years. It repaid a separate loan of about $1 million to the city in December 2019.
The business borrowed $11.5 million from private lenders, $4.5 million from the state and $700,000 from the city for a total of $16.7 million in initial loans.
It currently owes $9.4 million to private lenders and because it hasn’t paid either the state or the city those figures have increased to about $4.9 million to the state and $845,128 to the city.
The private lender has agreed to the refinancing and the state is in agreement as long as the city signs off on its loan, city Finance Director Kyle Miasek said.
With interest and no payments, the $700,000 has increased to $845,128. Under the repayment plan, with a 2 percent interest rate, Stambaugh Hotel LLC would pay a total of $1,114,068 with the loan fully paid in 2048. The initial loan was to be repaid by December 2026.
The proposal, if approved by council, would allow the city’s board of control to amend the loan agreement to permit Stambaugh Hotel LLC to pay interest only of $8,451.28 twice per year, starting July 1, for five years. It would then have to make payments of $25,738.88 twice per year to the city for 20 years.
It already has made the first interest-only payment to the city, Miasek said.
Turner said she objects to the refinancing because “these are public dollars that should be required to be paid back to the people in a timely manner,” and the city has “been more than patient.”
Turner said of Stambaugh Hotel LLC: “I’m all for saving a business in Youngstown, but I am not in favor of saving a business that is not willing to save itself.”
Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th Ward, said: “Not everything has to be a grandstand.”
Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, and Councilwoman Basia Adamczak, D-7th Ward, also said Turner was “grandstanding” with her vote.
Oliver called it “grandstanding on a whole new level” and “I would ask the public to see through the smoke and mirrors.”
Turner has clashed with other council members over a variety of issues including the spending of American Rescue Plan dollars, particularly related to park projects, as well as her numerous questions at committee meetings. Over her objections, she was removed a few months ago as the head of two committees.
“Any no vote on this piece of legislation is shortsighted,” Oliver said. “I don’t want to send a message to any of our constituency nor to any of our businesses trying to put down roots in our city, especially an anchor like the hotel, that the city is OK with them losing their shirt on an investment.”
Miasek said the deal’s deadline is today but because council will support the legislation on Wednesday, it won’t hinder the refinancing of the other loans.
If council approves the ordinance by majority but fails to get six votes Wednesday, it will be passed on its third reading. That means it would take 30 days for it to take effect, council President Tom Hetrick said.
Several council members said Thursday that they were hesitant to approve the loan refinancing, but decided to support it as it’s in the best interest of the city because the hotel creates jobs, generates income taxes and is an economic center for downtown.
To vote no “would be me taking a personal, emotional response,” Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th Ward, said.
Youngstown Stambaugh Hotel LLC is run by Pan Brothers, a New York City company, which has 82 percent ownership, and Dominic Marchionda, a former downtown property developer, owning the rest of the corporation.
Marchionda pleaded guilty on Aug. 7, 2020, to four felony counts of tampering with records, all occurring Oct. 6, 2011, admitting he used false invoices to get money from Youngstown for the Erie Terminal Place downtown housing project to pay bills he owed for the Flats at Wick student-housing complex.
Adamczak said she “was on the fence for a very long time” about this decision. But after doing about 15 hours of research, Adamczak said she “made an informed, responsible decision” to benefit the city.
Ray said, “I don’t think anyone thinks this is an ideal situation. No one thinks this is perfect. However, it’s the reality of the situation.”
Councilman Pat Kelly, D-5th Ward, said, “I was a àno’ until I looked at the big picture and saw our àno vote’ is going to cost a lot of jobs and a lot of income to the city.”
Council had delayed a vote on the hotel refinancing at its March 15 meeting in order to seek more information, and all but Turner who attended Thursday’s meeting were prepared to approve the legislation.
Council on Thursday approved the city’s $205 million budget for 2023.
Council had until today to support it.
The budget projects the general fund to have only $32,470 left at the end of the year, but has safeguards in place.
Council last year approved using $3,939,400 from its American Rescue Plan allocation for lost income tax revenue in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That money hasn’t been transferred the general fund, but can be if it is needed.
The city’s income tax is projected by Miasek to grow by 2.4 percent in 2023 compared to last year.
The projected amount is $52.1 million, up from $50,879,800 collected last year, which was a record.
The amount collected last year from the 2.75 percent income tax was an 8.41 percent increase over the $46,931,400 the city received in 2021.
All city employees received 2.5 percent raises this year and will get that same increase in 2024.