City eyes Stalsworth Hotel buy

The city looks to buy former hotel property and has long-term hopes of bringing in a new business or parking lot.

Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz said the city has been working for a few months to acquire the former Stalsworth Hotel, also known as the Pryzm Nightclub and Hotel, building, at a committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday night.

He proposed the city do a one-time exemption to use the its Venture Capital Fund money to pay for the Stalsworth property, 25 E. Market St., as well as the warehouse behind it, which was last used as a haunted house.

Montz said the goal would be to tear down the Stalsworth building and the former Salvation Building at the same time. He said two parties are interested in purchasing the warehouse building, if the Stalsworth is razed.

Montz said one party has plans for a restaurant and microbrewery in the building.

“If we can bring a restaurant or a business downtown, I think it’s a great use of that money, even if it’s going to require us to tweak the rules a little bit for a one-time exemption,” Montz said. “I think it’s an all-around win for all of us, especially since we obtained the properties at such a cheap price.”

With help from SIEDC, the city was able to get the two properties for $120,000. The purchase agreement was signed Feb. 15 and the city has 90 days to make a decision.

The Venture Capital Fund, which has just less than $200,000, was created for the city to give loans to businesses to promote economic growth.

Some of the goals of the fund are to address the need for additional employment opportunities, to encourage development of new industries, to improve or install infrastructure in certain areas of the city and to provide financing necessary to complete innovative deals.

Law Director Brent Howard said the city purchasing the Stalsworth property is consistent with those goals.

Montz said he would get the razing of the buildings worked into the 2014 budget.

An estimate by City Engineer Curtis Eagle to tear down the Stalsworth and Salvation Army buildings is $110,000, but Montz said the price would not exceed that estimate.

He said he is confident the building behind the Stalsworth building will be sold.

“Sometimes with economic development you’ve got to take some risks,” Montz said. “This is a chance for us to be proactive towards something. If nothing else, it’s a very valuable building for the fact that we do have some city things that need to be stored for now.”

Councilman Mark Hayes said he would like the city to get a plan in place for demolition of the buildings, so the city does not have another situation like it does with the Salvation Army building – a vacant building that is costing the city money.

To help pay for demolition, Montz said the city could also use revenue from the bed tax and internet cafes, funds council wanted to put toward economic growth and beautification.

Howard said the charter requires council to hear all three readings and have no emergency clause to purchase property.

He will have legislation prepared for the next council meeting.

The committee also discussed changing the city’s policy on sick time payout for non-union city employees.

A change would not affect current employees or union employees.

“Some of the money we’ve paid out over the years, it’s astronomical,” Council President Paul Elchert said. “I don’t know how we can continue wanting to see the taxpayers pay more taxes with those types of payouts when we really don’t have to do it.”

Councilwoman Lori Ritzler said she does not agree with the changes to lower the amount of money paid out to employees leaving because a large majority of the money being paid out is going toward union personnel.

“Unless it affects everybody across the board, I am not in favor of piggybacking another stipulation on 20 percent of the people,” she said.

Councilman Joe Hartzell said once the city adopts this policy for non-union workers, it can negotiate with unions to change their policy on sick time payouts.

Councilman Mark Hayes said council should go ahead with the policy change, but should not expect immediate results to save money, as it will only affect new hires.

Howard will have legislation prepared for next Monday’s council meeting regarding the change.

The committee also discussed changing the 20 percent rebate for the Miami Street sewer project.

The sewer project affected 343 properties, and the city was to rebate the citizens $776,069.50 which would take 40 years at 20 percent. The city started the rebate in 2002 and there are still 28 years left on the payback.

Paulette Miller, who lives in the area, said many residents who paid for the project will not live long enough to have their money paid back.

The committee agreed to double the percentage paid back, which would trim the time it takes to pay back citizens from 28 years to 14 years.

Howard will have legislation prepared for the next council meeting.