FOI will soon be sole owners of Ro-Na

Published 10:32 am Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Clause in current lease could hamper ability to get grants

A clause in the current lease for the Ro-Na Theater that states ownership would revert back to the city of Ironton will soon be removed, which would give the Friends of Ironton ownership of the building.

The building’s ownership became an issue after the recent awarding of a $100,000 Capital Bill grant for the installation of a heating and cooling system at the Ro-Na.

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Ralph Kline, assistant executive director of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, addressed council about the reversionary clause – a provision in a transfer deed under which the transferred property reverts to the grantor if any deed condition is violated – and why it poses a problem.

“While working with the Capital Bill people and putting together a checklist and things like that, one of the issues they have and one of the checklist items is a clear deed for the building,” Kline said. “Ownership going back to the city could be an issue. It could be worked around, but could be an issue.

Kline said he told members of the Capital Bill’s controlling board the FOI has been working with the city’s partners on redeveloping the Ro-Na, gotten the theater to the point it can be occupied and assumed the operation and maintenance of the facility.

Kline said as of this past September, the FOI and other partners have invested roughly $400,000 in the Ro-Na.

“Monthly operating expenses are around $2,500 to $3,000 and getting the building’s occupancy permits, which was accomplished this past summer, and bathrooms has made the building more usable,” Kline said. “I think what the (proposed) ordinance says is to eliminate that one clause. We need to get it to the point where the attorney with the state would not question it.”

The building’s deed was originally conveyed from city to the now-defunct Ironton Port Authority and then to Old Engineers LLC, Kline said.

“It was then when FOI stepped forward and said they would like to take it on as a project,” Kline said. “So we have been working with them as a nonprofit ever since that point in time.”

Kline said a new heating and air system will help with climate control, help decrease utility costs and open it up for a lot more of events, particularly in the auditorium.

“Right now the peripheries are the areas that are climate controlled,” Kline said. “(The system) will get heat and air in the main auditorium so they can have events in the heat of the summer and the dead of winter.”

Kevin Waldo, vice mayor, asked mayor Rich Blankenship if the city has any interest in taking control of the building through the lease’s reversionary clause.

“I’d veto your vote to get it back,” Blankenship joked. “We don’t have the funds, the manpower or the expertise to operate it.”

Blankenship read an excerpt from the proposed ordinance, which was not on the agenda, which did not contain the reversionary clause and, if adopted, gives FOI sole ownership of the building.

“It’s important to apply for capital funds with a clear title,” Blankenship said. “It’s difficult to get money for something you don’t own.”

Kline estimates the costs to complete the Ro-Na at $1 million.

Also at the meeting, council suspended the rules and adopted:

• ordinance 14-43, authorizing the mayor to enter into a contract with the Ironton Metropolitan Housing Authority for police protection; and

• ordinance 14-44, establishing the Kronos time clock policies and procedures for city employees.

Resolution 14-45, authorizing the transfer of funds in the general fund to the recreation and flood; Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to storm water; and health fund to general fund, was adopted.

An amended version of ordinance 14-31, executing a collective bargaining agreement between the city and AFSCME Local 771, was adopted, and ordinance 14-42, closing a portion of Market Street, was given a second reading.

Council approved Blankenship’s recommendation to reappoint Mike Corn and Richard Carter to the zoning appeals board.

The next regular meeting of Ironton City Council is 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11, on the third floor of the city center.