EGCC to Purchase Harshman Building for $1.39M

VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Eastern Gateway Community College expects to take possession of the former Harshman Building sometime next month, a campus official said Wednesday.

The Western Reserve Port Authority’s board of directors approved selling the building to Eastern Gateway, which currently leases the building’s first floor and lower level from the port authority, for $1.39 million. In addition, the community college will pay the port authority $508,500 for renovations it is making to the second floor for additional classroom and office space.

The port authority met Wednesday at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, which the port authority operates. It was the board’s first in-person meeting since restrictions were imposed on meetings to curtain the spread of the coronavirus.

“We’re excited about what we’re about to do here,” Michael Geoghegan, EGCC’s interim president, told the port authority’s board of directors.

In 2018, the port authority purchased the building from a subsidiary of NYO Property Group for $350,000 to renovate for classroom and student space, as well as to house the port authority’s offices. As Eastern Gateway’s need for additional space grew, the community college and the port authority entered into discussions for utilizing the second floor to acquire the building, now known as Eastern Gateway’s Healthcare Workforce Building.

“Economic development comes in different flavors,” one of which is workforce development, said Anthony Trevena, the port authority’s executive director. WRPA’s relationship with Eastern Gateway began with a dialogue that has grown into “what I would call a really strong friendship,”

The East Boardman Street property is one of two downtown buildings that Eastern Gateway is purchasing, utilizing the process of 30-year bonds it sold last week. It is also buying Thomas Humphries Hall, the former Plaza Place parking garage.

Eastern Gateway realized $13.6 million from last week’s sale of the bonds, which have an interest rate of 3%. It will close on Humphries Hall by June 30, and looks to close on the health workforce building a few weeks after that, said Art Daly, vice president of the Youngstown Campus.

At the meeting, during which board members also approved assisting EDM Management Inc. with a $12.7 million project, chief financial officer Kevin Kern informed board members that the port authority so far didn’t take as big a financial hit from lower bed tax collections as projected.

The port authority, which gets a share of bed taxes collected by lodging businesses in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, received $53,407 from hotels in March, about $98,000 below the average for what is normally collected, Kern said. Collections for April, which the port authority received this month, were 38% of what was originally budgeted.

“If that stays, it’s not going to be as bad as we thought,” he said.

Bed tax collections have taken a hit because of lower hotel stays because of the coronavirus pandemic. Port authority officials projected receipts would be about 10% of what it would normally take in.

Board member Ron Klingle, whose company, Avalon Holdings, owns The Grand Resort in Howland Township, affirmed that bookings are on the rise at his business.

“We’ve gone from 10% occupancy to somewhere between 30% and 40%, and it’s increasing,” he remarked.

“People are starting to travel again. They’re not flying but they’re driving and they’re using lodging,” said Kathleen Dillon-Kennedy, chairwoman of the port authority’s finance committee.

The port authority will also take in less money from reduced activity at the airport because of reduced revenue from landing and fuel flowage fees, for example, according to Kern. Port authority staff are acting every day to lessen the financial impact of the coronavirus, he said.

Dillon-Kennedy praised the port authority staff for their creativity and thoughtfulness.

“Everybody is very thoughtful in how they’re spending money. I’m very pleased with what we’re seeing,” she said.

Kern also said the state of Ohio is going to refund the port authority the Airport Improvement Program local match for 2019, about $74,000, and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act will cover the $160,000 match for the Fiscal Year 2020 AIP funds. The Cares Act will provide an additional $69,000 reimbursement, he said.

Following an executive session, the board approved extending John Moliterno’s contract as executive director on a month-by-month basis. David Detec, an attorney who has represented Moliterno, abstained from the vote and Sam Covelli was absent.

Moliterno was hired as the port authority’s executive director five years ago. His current contract expires at the end of the month.

“It’s just a way to give us another 30 or 60 days, just to give us a better financial picture of where we’re at,” said Marty Loney, board chairman. The decision was “no reflection” on how board members feel about Moliterno’s performance, he emphasized. The board members attending Wednesday’s meeting agree that Moliterno is doing “a fantastic job,” he said.

“This is about how we structure,” Moliterno said. “This is not about whether to keep me or not.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.