To lease or not to lease? Niles considers bidding wellness center

If the Niles Wellness Center isn't leased, next year could bring the city even more financial problems

Basketball at the Niles Wellness Center.

NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – Niles City Council will begin seeking bids on the wellness center, hoping to lease the property and put the city in a better financial position.

The commission overseeing Niles’ fiscal emergency approved the latest changes to the recovery plan, knowing full well it could change again. The unknown is whether or not the Niles Wellness Center will be leased. If it isn’t, next year could bring the city even more financial problems.

Read: Entire fiscal emergency recovery plan (PDF)

With soccer practice and pick-up basketball happening at the wellness center Wednesday night, about a mile away, the commission debated the validity of leasing it versus having the city continue to operate it.

“I see things in the lease that just don’t make sense,” said commission member John Davis.

He questioned leasing the wellness center, wondering what would happen if no one is interested.

“If it’s leased, hey, we’re in better shape. If it’s not…no, it can’t be back to the drawing board,” Davis said. “You have to have something ready to go, hit the ground running.”

The wellness center was just one part of the commission’s meeting. It also approved 12 amendments to the recovery plan, including buying a fire truck and replacing police cars, repairing streets, installing water meters and giving council a say on the need to hire.

Tim Linter, of the Ohio Auditor’s Office, also talked about excessive overtime.

“The water overtime is up 91 percent. The light overtime is up 76 percent,” he said.

Niles Safety Service Director Jim DePasquale justified the overtime, saying it was either to help new businesses near the Eastwood Mall get started or for emergencies, like fixing water lines.

The plan isn’t perfect, but Commission Chairman Quentin Potter put it best:

“They feel that this is the best plan that you can put forward…under the circumstances, and that you’re willing to take those risks and understanding that immediate action will have to be taken if they don’t pan out.”

City council met after the fiscal commission and approved seeking bids on the wellness center lease.

On the upside, Niles’ budget for 2017 is showing $228,000 to the plus and the out five years is $2 million to the plus.

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