ELYRIA — Lorain County Commissioner Tom Williams on Wednesday proposed a revenue-sharing agreement between the county and the city of Lorain that would see half of the city’s income tax collected from workers at St. Joseph Community Center diverted to county coffers.
Williams said the money collected under the proposed agreement would be used to reimburse the county for the $425,000 the commissioners agreed to spend to pay off a $1.3 million state loan to South Shore Community Development Corp., which owns St. Joe’s. The city is kicking in another $425,000 to pay off the loan, which both the city and county had guaranteed to pay if the financially ailing community center folded.
The proposal came while Williams and his fellow commissioners were discussing whether to sign off on shifting $120,000 of the $360,000 that Mercy Regional Medical Center has pledged to spend on the project from redevelopment to operations.
Lorain Development Corp. Director Doug Rangel had urged the commissioners to approve allowing the $120,000 to go toward operations so that the facility could afford to fire up the boilers to warm the former hospital in the coming winter months. Without that money, he warned, the center would likely close and a deal being worked on to sell St. Joe’s to an as-yet unidentified private developer would be torpedoed.
Williams, however, argued that the county would lose its leverage over the city on his revenue-sharing proposal if the commissioners agreed to shifting the money into operations. The commissioners ultimately agreed to allow $60,000 to be spent to bring the boilers online.
Williams said the city will get back the money it put into paying off the state loan through income taxes, while the county will get nothing beyond a small amount of property taxes if St. Joe’s is sold to a private developer.
Under the revenue-sharing deal, he argued, the county would get back the money it spent on bailing out South Shore back.
“I think it’s a fair application since we’re both putting in $425,000 and the city of Lorain is going to get their money back,” Williams said after the meeting. “Why shouldn’t the county taxpayers get paid back?”
Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer, who wasn’t at the meeting, said at the present time he doesn’t support the idea of revenue-sharing. He said the city, not the county, has secured funds from both the state and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use on tearing down part of the facility and fixing other areas.
He also argued that the city has contributed far more over the years to keep St. Joe’s afloat than the county has.
Rangel had made a similar argument during the meeting, but county Administrator Jim Cordes, who once served on the South Shore board, argued that the county has been equally involved financially in keeping St. Joe’s open.
Commissioner Lori Kokoski said she agreed with Williams that a revenue-sharing deal would be a good idea and believes it would be a sign of good faith on the city’s part.
“If they want to partner, we have to be true partners, not just giving, but also getting,” she said.
Commissioner Ted Kalo said he would be willing to support a revenue-sharing deal, but he thinks that money should only come from the taxes paid by workers who are hired to work at St. Joe’s that are in addition to those already working there.
Ritenauer said with the $60,000 in place for operations, the city can now focus on trying to work on finding a new owner for St. Joe’s.
“We’ve got a real opportunity and I don’t want to lose it,” he said.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.