Negotiations end for development deal

EAST LIVERPOOL – The Community Improvement Corporation held its first meeting of 2014 on Thursday evening in city council chambers.

CIC President Sam Scafide announced that negotiations with Harrison Greene Limited on a proposal to build a new public housing development on an eight-acre portion of the Riverview property have fallen through. Scafide says the deal would have been worth $120,000, but fell through after the development company ran out of time in which to complete necessary environmental studies for the Environmental Protection Agency.

According to Scafide, Frank Woda from Harrison Greene called earlier that day to announce the firm had decided to cancel talks on the property development. “The deal is dead,” Scafide said.

The Review subsequently received a phone call from councilman Ryan Stovall, who said city council had been completely against the negotiations because the project would have brought more Section 8, housing into East Liverpool. “That property was not bought to put low-income housing on,” Stovall said. “We have enough low-income housing in the city, and enough’s enough.”

Bill Cowan, who was again named executive director, stated that the county auditor’s report for 2013 came back with a finding regarding an account that had not been reported. Cowan said it was a set-aside account established to assist the city with the purchase of the former Riverview property at Anderson and Parkway. Funds totaling $54,300 deposited in the account were loaned to the city to put toward the purchase this past summer.

“That was all that account was used for,” Cowan said. “Although we reported we had all the financial statements, it was overlooked during the preparation of financial statements.” The matter has been reconciled with the auditor since noting the oversight, however. “Everything is in order, I can assure you of that,” Cowan added.

He asserted that the auditor’s office laid blame on the accounting firm that prepared the CIC’s financial statements, William D. Leicht & Associates of Youngstown, in having overlooked the account despite having all of the corporation’s financial information. Cowan added that the CIC has since been in talks with a different accounting firm in hopes of avoiding a similar mishap in the future.

According to its most recent statement available, the CIC checking account at 1st National Community Bank showed a balance of $115,089.28. Cowan says that 2013 was an unusually busy year for the corporation, as reflected in the account activity that included payments of $2,633 to X-Treme Demolition and Trucking of East Liverpool, and $6,000 to J&J Asbestos Abatement of Leavittsburg for work at the Riverview site. The corporation also repaid the balance of its 2012 loan from 1st National Community Bank in the amount of $455,000 toward the purchase of the property.

Income now includes payments of $861.93 per month from SBA Communications Corporation, which leases part of the Riverview property for a cell tower. Cowan says the CIC has received $15,300.55 SBA in payments so far, with good expectations for the future. “That’ll continue to grow,” he said.

Scafide admitted that final negotiations with SBA were “a rough road at times,” but expressed gratitude with the revenue generated so far. He says the specific terms of the lease would be presented at the corporation’s next meeting.

Cowan added that the CIC has received a letter from the county auditor stating that since the portion of the Riverview property where the cell tower sits is now a revenue-generating site, the 25-acre soccer field property on which it sits could no longer be tax-exempt. While negotiations with the auditor’s office continue, a survey of the property is being undertaken to find if the cell tower portion could be separated from the rest of the land, making a smaller parcel on which they would owe taxes.

During the reorganizational portion of the meeting, trustees and officers for 2014 were nominated and approved. Trustees include Don Heldman, William Curtis, Pat Scafide, Fred Kane and Scott Sheppard, with terms ending Jan. 31, 2016. Scafide was named president and Cowan executive director, with Dan Dietz, treasurer, and Charles Wade, secretary.