September 1, 2014

Elyria
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Donated building? Boys & Girls Club wants to lease it

ELYRIA — The executive director of Boys & Girls Club of Lorain County says he’s interested in signing a 10-year lease for a building that a philanthropic organization has offered to donate to Elyria.

Nordson Corporation Foundation, the owner of the 22,000-square-foot building at the corner of Oberlin-Elyria Road and Middle Avenue, is looking to hand it over for free to the city — albeit with a major stipulation.

Foundation officials say Elyria must use the building strictly for youth-oriented programs for the next decade.

Mike Conibear, executive director of Boys & Girls Club of Lorain County, said his organization is willing to sign a 10-year lease for the building, as well as cover costs for utilities and general upkeep.

“With most of our rental agreements, we like longer-term agreements because it provides a little more stability for us,” Conibear said. “The longer the agreement, the better it is for everyone involved.”

Boys & Girls Club of Lorain County has multiple-year leases at eight locations in Oberlin, Lorain and Elyria, but the 10-year lease would be the group’s longest, Conibear said.

The youth organization has a temporary location at a South Park Recreation Center on 16th Street, not far from the Nordson building, but a permanent presence would buttress services to an area that Conibear said is a key target area for his group.

Elyria Mayor Bill Grace, who had been working for more than a year to arrange a deal with the foundation to acquire the building, said Conibear’s commitment could be just what the city needs.

Elyria Councilman Garry Gibbs, R-3rd Ward, said he still has reservations about the city owning and leasing the property.

“I don’t think Nordson should be telling the city what types of programs should be in the city,” Gibbs said. “I would certainly ask the mayor or administration to negotiate for less than a 10-year lease.”

Gibbs also questioned Nordson’s motivation in handing the building to the city and not to the actual Boys and Girls Club.
The foundation’s written offer to Elyria officials said the city would have to decide by Oct. 31.

Last week, representatives for the building’s former tenant, Community Impact Organization, lambasted the foundation for ousting them from the building.

CIP representatives said they were asked to leave for no apparent reason, though Nordson officials said CIP’s finances played a role in the decision. CIP’s tax returns showed a declining revenue from 2004 to 2006, but it always ended the year with a carryover.
Meanwhile, foundation officials responded to CIP’s comments.

“Nordson is focused on finding ways to impact the lives of the youth of south Elyria who could greatly benefit through the delivery of impactful youth programs,” Nordson officials wrote.

The foundation, the letter noted, has donated more than $50,000 to community organizations serving that area.

Contact Shawn Foucher at 653-6255 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.