The Warren County Port Authority approved an agreement that would issue $500,000 in bonds for the city of Middletown which will be used for major upgrades and improvements at the Robert “Sonny” Hill Community Center, 800 Lafayette Ave. Middletown City Council will have to approve the agreement before the deal can be closed. City officials said the bonds will be repaid through Property Assessed Clean Energy financing. The city is also using this as a demonstration project to show prospective and existing businesses and industries how the PACE process works. ED RICHTER/STAFF

Middletown closer to badly needed upgrades on community center

The Warren County Port Authority board approved issuing up to $500,000 in Ohio Communities Accelerator Fund bonds for the city at its April 30 meeting, but it will require City Council to approve the agreement and several other pieces of legislation before the bonds are issued.

“We’re primed and ready to do this deal,” said Martin Russell, port authority executive director.

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The city owns the facility at 800 Lafayette Ave., which is operated by the Community Building Institute and provides various types of community programming. In the operating contract, the city is responsible for any maintenance to the building of more than $2,500. Concerns have been raised about problems with the building’s roofing and lighting.

City officials said they will also utilize Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, which is an assessment program for capital improvements and repairs to repay the bonds.

Russell described the PACE program as being similar to city sidewalk repair programs in which property owners can pay to repair their sidewalks before a set deadline or the city will make the repairs and assess the property owner, usually over five years through their property taxes.

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City Manager Doug Adkins said the PACE project financing would be used for capital repairs at the community center. In addition, it will serve as a demonstration project for city’s Economic Development Department to show prospects and existing businesses how the PACE process works.

In addition, it will serve as a demonstration project for city’s Economic Development Department to show prospects and existing businesses how the PACE process works, he said.

Jennifer Ekey, city economic development director, said the city will only finance what is needed for the project.

“We’ve had a lot of interest in the PACE program,” Ekey said. “We wanted to have first-hand experience in how this works.”

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Susan Cohen, city administrative services director, said the five planned upgrades are expected to cost an estimated $390,000. She said the construction cost is estimated at $298,000 in addition to the $90,000 in financing costs. The bonds will be repaid over 10 years starting in 2020.

The improvements include:

  • Converting remaining interior and exterior lighting to LED lighting and fixtures.
  • Updating HVAC controls that include low-voltage programmable thermostats to allow night and weekend setback temperatures for the four furnace/AC units and a new thermostat to control electric resistance baseboard heating.
  • Installing eight new LED parking lot lights with new poles.
  • Correcting a drainage problem from the roof to facilitate storm flow away from the entry roof to landscaping or storm drain.
  • Repairs to the roofing and gutters.

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