Saving house in Ravenna poses conflict

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The future of the Old Brayton House in Ravenna hinges on its rich past _ and the willingness of City Council to accept a conflict of interest that is posed by the potential tenants.

At Monday's Ravenna City Council meeting, three council members voted to proceed with an ordinance that acknowledges a beneficial interest that Portage Area Development Corp. would have from administering the state grants for the city while leasing the building for its administrative headquarters. Three council members voted to leave the ordinance at the first reading pending further review.

The city committed a $100,000 grant from the state to exterior renovations for the historic house, located at 432 S. Chestnut St., and PADCorp. plans to borrow $30,000 from the city's Revolving Loan Fund to fund interior renovations, CouncilmanVan Harkcom said.

Of the $600 lease payment that PADCorp. would make each month, $330 would go to the city, while the remainder would pay for the revolving loan debt, Harkcom said.

"I think the $100,000 should be used for another building," Harkcom said. "Over the 15-year lease, the city would recapture $59,000," Harkcom said. "That means we're stuck holding the bag for $41,000."

Harkcom said the amount of money that would be spent on the project would be justified if the city bought the house from Portage County, which purchased the house for $55,000.

He said he has a concern about investing money in a project that is owned by another public entity, which had expressed interest in future development at the site. The county owns the contiguous land on both sides.

He added that the architectural and historical significance of the house justifies saving it.

Council President Kevin Poland cast the tie-breaking vote to proceed with the ordinance, but there were not enough votes to bypass council rules and take immediate action.

"I would hate to see this project delayed any further," Poland said. "This is one of the oldest homes in the city. In my opinion, it is worth saving."

Adoption of the ordinance would not remove the conflict of interest, but it would pave the way for the project to pass through the Portage County Auditor's Office, Poland said.

"This ordinance is a matter of housekeeping for the auditor's office so they know we went into this with our eyes open," he said. "We are making the best out of a tenuous situation."

Councilman Mark Gabriel said that other options, such as moving the house, are not financially feasible.

"I don't see any other way of doing it," Gabriel said.

PADCorp. President Bill Hale said he also is unaware of another way to continue the project.

"This is a very difficult project, and $130,000 isn't cheap," he said. "There is still a lot to be done, but the house is worth saving."

He said that PADCorp. would spend about $200 more than its current lease payment to move its office to the historic home.

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