December 22, 2014

Elyria
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Three vacant seats filled on board for St. Joe’s

LORAIN — The board of South Shore Community Development Corp., which owns St. Joseph Community Center, met Friday to appoint three new board members.

The three vacant seats, which are named by the city of Lorain, were among the complaints that Gregory Hipp of Ohio Realty Advisors, the company that runs the center, listed in a letter he sent to the board on Jan. 5. The letter also detailed physical and financial problems that have plagued the center, which Hipp wrote would be operating at a deficit of $25,000 per month in 2012.

Board member Mike Challender said the board held a brief conference call and formally appointed Jennifer Koperdak with the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland, Joe Falbo, who is the bailiff for county Common Pleas Judge Raymond Ewers, and Bernard Smith, who is general counsel for Mercy Health Partners.

The board met last week and appointing the three new additions was on the agenda, but because only three of the then-six board members were available, the board didn’t have a quorum and could take no action.

Falbo said he has not had a chance to review the financial and other information, including Hipp’s letter, about St. Joe’s and couldn’t comment on the future of the facility.

“Obviously St. Joe’s has been a big part of the community and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do with it,” he said.

The release of Hipp’s letter — and a letter from tenants detailing their concerns with climate control, security and other issues — has made the efforts to keep the former hospital operating the subject of much public discussion.

Officials with Ohio Realty Advisors and the South Shore board have promised to hold a public forum in the coming weeks to discuss their plans to deal with the problems laid out in Hipp’s letter.

Lee Burger, an executive with the company and a South Shore board member, has said Ohio Realty Advisors remains committed to St. Joe’s and has called the community center “sustainable.” Burger did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

The county and the city both have a vested interest in keeping St. Joe’s operating because both entities are guarantors on roughly $750,000 each worth of state loans that they would have to pay off if the center closed.

Commissioner Ted Kalo has suggested that the city and county each kick in $12,500 per month to deal with South Shore’s budget woes. Kalo wants the state to count that money toward paying down the loans the city and the county have backed.

Commissioner Tom Williams has opposed that idea, arguing that St. Joe’s has been losing money for years and continues to have problems that need to be addressed. He also has opposed relocating the offices of the Lorain County Veteran Services Commission to the building because of the problems and costs.

Local veterans have pushed the idea because they argue that it would create a one-stop location for veterans in the county. St. Joe’s already houses a U.S. Veterans’ Administration clinic and local veterans plan to build a transitional housing facility for veterans in need there.

The controversy surrounding the future of St. Joe’s has slowed those plans however, but backers of the Valor Home insist the project will move forward.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.