Nelson Undecided on Fate of Old Garage
Nelson Twp. – Nelson Township Trustees met on February 27, 2013 for a special meeting originally set up to discuss the possibility of leasing the old township garage to the Nelson Garrettsville Community Cupboard (NGCC). The meeting drew over 40 interested people and was somewhat heated at times but in the end, resulted in nothing.
On February 7, 2013 the NGCC presented a lease proposal to the trustees to consider leasing them a portion of the old township garage. After reviewing the proposal, it was determined that thrustees would need more time to consider the matter and hear from the community before rendering any decision on the issue. Therefore, a special meeting was scheduled for February 27, 2013.
The special meeting was called to order and the township fiscal officer read the purpose of the meeting as it was advertised in the paper. The meeting was advertised as a special meeting to determine if the township would maintain the old township garage for township use, demolish it or lease it to the NGCC. Tom Matota, chairman of the board, stated that the trustees supported the food bank and they have nothing against the church who holds the 5013c that the food cupboard operates under or the NGCC. Matota stated that the trustees needed to be responsible with the taxpayer’s money, so he wanted to hear from the residents on the issue.
Following a tour of the old garage, Michelle Elias, president of the NGCC board of directors, stated she would be the spokesperson for the food cupboard. Elias presented the proposal that the cupboard was willing to maintain the interior of the building, including adding a new furnace, insulation, updating electrical switch box if needed, fix flooring issues, get insurance in compliance with the township’s 2 million dollar liability requirement, and whatever else they would need to do inside to make the building usable. The NGCC in return would ask that the township maintain the exterior of the facility, including, but not limited to, the roof and exterior cracks in the building’s sidewalls. The NGCC would pay $1 per year in lease for ten years with a six month notice of termination with good cause. The food cupboard wanted a long-term lease to protect their investment in the building. Matota was also against a long term lease with any entity as he thought they should only make decisions for the length of time that they served (4 years).
Matota was sure the building would need a roof and wasn’t convinced that the trustees should invest any money in the building. Matota also stated that they needed to be responsible with the taxpayer’s money and doesn’t feel that putting money into the building is the answer. He believes the building is an eyesore and should have been razed years ago. Trustee Joe Leonard disagreed with Matota; he claims they have no idea if the roof needs repair since they haven’t had anyone look at it, Leonard claims the township uses the building and it is a sound structure that has been neglected and needs some maintenance.
A resident asked Trustee Jim Turos what his thoughts were on the issue and he offered no definite direction.
Matota brought up an email the trustees had received from Chris Meduri, the townships legal counsel. The email was a response to a question raised by Jim Turos on whether it would be unethical or considered a conflict of interest if he voted on the lease agreement with NGCC since he is a member of the church of which the NGCC is an outreach ministry program. Meduri advised that they seek an opinion from the ethics committee if the trustee was adamant about voting. Turos indicates he plans to abstain from voting on the issue. Matota questioned Trustee Joe Leonard on whether he could vote in good conscience since he served on the board of directors of the food bank until he resigned his position recently. Leonard believes he can vote and do so in good conscience. Matota believes they will need a ruling from the ethics committee before proceeding.
They opened the floor up to hear comments from residents. Many residents supported the food cupboard, however one resident objected to the township spending taxpayer’s money to support a charity. Other residents disputed the claim as the food cupboard would only being used a third of the building and the township would use the other two-thirds of the facility.
“[..] if he was so concerned about making responsible decisions with the township’s money, then why were they considering buying a an excavator that would take about $50,000 [..]“Another resident questioned what it would cost to raze the building or repair it. The trustees didn’t have any figures on that. The residents wanted to know why they didn’t have figures on it since they had two weeks to get ready for the meeting. Dan Dolan, Nelson resident accused Matota of playing the devil’s advocate and asked if he was so concerned about making responsible decisions with the township’s money, then why were they considering buying a an excavator that would take about $50,000 from the road and bridge fund before knowing which roads the township needs to repair. The same resident also accused the trustees of not doing their job because they neglected maintaining township property.
It was a long meeting that accomplished very little if anything, other than scheduling another meeting which will be announced after they get some figures on the cost of maintaining the building and the cost of razing it.
Until the trustees make a decision on whether they are going to maintain the structure or demolish it, they can’t render a decision on the NGCC lease proposal. A special meeting will be held and announced in the papers, once trustees have estimates for razing and maintaining the facility.