LORAIN — City Council would like to see the dilapidated Hot Waters Bait Shop demolished after seeing a Monday night presentation from city officials.
At a Building and Lands Committee meeting that chairman Brian Gates, D-1st Ward, described as purely informational, Safety-Service Director Dan Given detailed the condition of the shop, 1104 W. First St., as having rotting floors, rodents and inadequate plumbing.
“Quite frankly, after seeing the presentation and reading the inspection reports, I’m wondering why there’s even a meeting,” Gates said. “I’m wondering how we could even possibly consider leasing this building out again. There’s no way it’s even cost-effective to rehab it.”
Given said he discovered the conditions after he went to the shop to collect rent last summer but wanted to wait until after the fishing season was over before he tried to develop a long-term solution.
“At the beginning of this year, the tenant expressed an interest in extending his lease and there was also someone else who was interested, and I felt it best to send Building, Housing and Planning and the Fire Department to get an understanding of where we were,” he said. “There’s been severe deterioration.”
Given said while the city does lease the building to a tenant, it is the city’s responsibility to keep up on the maintenance, but they were never notified of any problems.
While the most-recent tenant, Scott Reynolds, was not present Monday night, his mother was, and she said the city wasn’t notified because Reynolds knew the city had enough going on without adding his problems into the mix.
“When things were good, things were good,” she said. “People would think it was cleaner than their own house, but then there were water issues, and we had to do things like close the bathrooms down, but on a year-to-year lease, you can’t buy the supplies you need.”
Reynolds’ mother said as time went on, the building got worse, and they even looked into replacing the faulty electric themselves, but contractors said they wouldn’t touch the project.
“Fishing went to hell two years ago, and we don’t even know what happened,” she said. “Mother Nature wouldn’t cooperate. Yes, he was behind on his rent, but it was either pay the rent or keep the lights on.”
Residents Chuck Becker and John Wargo criticized the city for letting the condition of the building get so poor.
Given said Reynolds had been leasing the building from the city for about $500 or $600 a month since 2012, and while there was an option to renew the lease further, it wasn’t something the city could justify.
“When it comes down to it, we want to hold our own properties to the same standards that we would hold them to if they were in the private sector and owned by someone else,” he said.
Given said the administration will begin demolishing the building but as for the future of the land, it’s up in the air.
“When we get proposals (for the land) back, if we get proposals back, we’ll meet again with Council,” he said. “It’ll likely be the end of the year by the time we bring it all together.”
Council also had a Finance and Claims Committee meeting Monday night where Chief Deputy Auditor Anita Harper said the final deficit carryover from 2016 was more than $1.7 million.
Harper said the city was initially thinking it would have $1 million more in revenues than expenditures by the end of 2017, so decisions are going to need to be made in order to use the additional $763,342 to balance the budget.
Mayor Chase Ritenauer said the balance was better than anticipated, with city officials thinking it was going to be closer to $2.1 million, and much of the difference came from the federal staffing grant and levy that benefit the Fire Department.
“Those two things are allowing us a greater flexibility in a section of the general fund where we usually spend a lot,” he said. “But we’ve also got to figure out a way to fill the gaps.”
Ritenauer said he, Harper and Auditor Karen Shawver have looked at the city’s outstanding debt and bonds back to 2003 to see if interest rates are lower now than they were then, allowing the city to refinance and save $410,000.
“After that, there’s a couple of different options,” he said. “Do we nip and tuck? Do we refinance some other bonds? Those really focus on market rates though, so we can’t do that quite yet. The other thing we could do is borrow against delinquent property taxes and pay it back over 10 years. It would balance the budget and allow us to operate.”
Ritenauer said the city was considering a bond in order to meet the 20 percent match it needs for the Ohio Department of Transportation resurfacing of U.S. Route 6 this year but won’t likely need to go down that route.
Instead, the bond could be used to partially finance the $3.1 million Broadway streetscape project and offset the project’s costs for building owners.
Ritenauer said the city is definitely in a better position now than it was a year ago where it faced a $3.6 million deficit and the layoff of 22 firefighters.
“To get to this point without layoffs or cuts is definitely a positive,” he said.