Lorain Port Authority supports VA clinic at LHS site

By Richard Payerchin, The Morning Journal

The Lorain Port Authority will work with Lorain schools and the city to control a site that could become a new veterans clinic.

Meanwhile, the Port also will sponsor this year’s Rockin’ on the River concert series with an extra boost of $5,000.

The Lorain Port Authority board on Jan. 20 held a special meeting to consider an agreement to work with Lorain City Schools to transfer the current Lorain High School to the Port. The Port board voted 6-0 to adopt a resolution allowing Executive Director Rick Novak to work with the city and schools on a property transfer.

The Port control of the LHS site would become part of an “expression of interest” submitted to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for a new community based outpatient clinic, or CBOC, in Lorain.

The VA is seeking “expressions of interest” for using 20,052 square feet of net usable space for a permanent clinic in Lorain, according to a Jan. 4 notice by the federal agency. Proposals are due Jan. 25 to the federal agency.

The goal of the project with the city and schools is to have a permanent location for the CBOC in Lorain, Novak said.

Details still are in the works for the LHS property, Novak said, but ultimately the Port could take title to the high school, which also is the former Southview High School at 2270 E. 42nd St.

The Port Authority will have no up-front cost because of the resolution, Novak said. The transfer would allow the Port to transfer the land without going out for public bid on the site, he said.

The resolution also shows the Port, Lorain schools and the city are partners in redeveloping Lorain, said Port board President Carl Nielsen.

For months, the city has been looking for ways to keep the community based outpatient clinic, or CBOC, at the St. Joseph Community Center, 205 W. 20th St. in Lorain, or in the city at another location. The VA in October 2015 announced that it signed a lease agreement with Fedcar Co. Ltd. to develop and lease the property located at 5255 N. Abbe Road, Sheffield Village, moving in this year.

On a personal note, Nielsen praised the VA for health care provided to his uncle, the late Homer Nielsen, an Army veteran of World War II who died at age 86.

“If it wasn’t for the VA in Lorain, his quality of life would not have been as good as it was,” Nielsen said. “They were wonderful to him.”

Meanwhile, the Port will commit $5,000 from its marketing budget to support the Rockin’ on the River concert series to be held for the second summer at Black River Landing.

Rockin’ on the River promoter Bob Earley asked the board to consider the financial sponsorship as he negotiates with bands that will appear this year, Novak said.

The Port this year will have a new online system for advance sales of tickets to Rockin’ on the River shows, so the Lorain Port Authority may make back the $5,000, Novak said. The new ticket system is in development but Earley’s goal is to have it go live by March 1, Novak said.

Earley and the weekly shows were “a game-changer for this community,” Novak said, and the board members agreed.

Spitzer Chevy Amherst to sponsor Rockin’ on the River

By Richard Payerchin, The Morning Journal

Spitzer Chevrolet Amherst has signed on as the title sponsor the Rockin’ on the River concert series in Lorain.

Concert promoter Bob Earley announced the new sponsorship on Jan. 4.

“It’s great to have them on board,” Earley said.

It’s going to make for a big name, though, he added with a laugh.

Rockin’ on the River’s official moniker and logo will add Spitzer Chevrolet Amherst, although the exact new name and design are not final, Earley said.

“They’re going to take an active part,” he said about the Spitzer Chevy Amherst dealership. “We’re going to make them proud and they’re going to make us proud.”

The 2016 concert series will feature 20 shows running from June 3 to Sept. 10, with 12 events on Friday nights, seven on Saturdays and one on Sunday. The schedule likely will be completed within 30 days, Earley said.

This year will be the second summer that Rockin’ on the Rover spends in Lorain. In 2015, the series moved from Cuyahoga Falls.

Last year, Earley acknowledged area merchants did not know what to expect with the weekly shows by classic rock, country and contemporary tribute bands.

The success of 2015 sparked the interest of businesses and event organizers, Earley said. He added he does not necessarily seek out sponsors, but the interest is “just a natural part of what we do” when crowds start coming, he said.

“It’s nice to be recognized by a great community citizen like Spitzer,” Earley said.

The sponsorship does not change the use agreement between Rockin’ on the River and the Lorain Port Authority, which controls the Black River Landing community festival site, said Rick Novak, Port executive director.

Novak agreed with Earley that some Lorain-area businesspeople might have known about Rockin’ on the River in Cuyahoga Falls, but did not know the effect it would have in Lorain.

“I think now people have a much better understanding of it, and they’re willing to step up and support the events,” Novak said. “It’s great that the Spitzer organization and dealership stepped up with their willingness to fund the event. I think it’s great.”

The Port will not get any revenues due to the sponsorships. With the musical acts, staffing and portable restrooms, people may not realize how much money Earley invests in the community, Novak said.

“It’s a huge investment,” he said.

State audit notes problems in Lorain business loans

Metro Creative Connection

By Richard Payerchin, The Morning Journal

Lorain’s state audit for 2014 noted a significant deficiency in the way the city evaluates business development loans that were not repaid.

Meanwhile, the state audit also listed continuing computer problems at the city Clerk of Courts Office, but Clerk of Courts Lori Maiorana said the computer troubles are getting corrected.

The city of Lorain has suspended, for 120 days, any new loans to businesses that want to locate or grow in the city. The loans are made with Community Development Block Grant money from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The hiatus is needed for the city Department of Building, Housing and Planning to evaluate the process and rules governing the loans, said Mayor Chase Ritenauer and department Director Leon Mason.

The 2014 audit from Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost’s office noted each year, the city gets loan reports from the Lorain Development Corp., a nonprofit corporation that administers the loans.

The city’s allowance for uncollectable loans had errors overstating the balance by $275,718 and a duplicate loan number overstating the balance by $54,924, according to the state audit.

“Further, when we examined certain loan files designated as uncollectable or write-off, they were incomplete and lacked a clear rationale to be designated as uncollectable or write-off,” the audit report said. “Also, the designation of loans from collectable to uncollectable or written off were inconsistent.

“The aforementioned deficiencies diminish the reliability of the loans receivable balance including the calculation of allowance for uncollectable loans and could result in misstatements to the financial statements.”

The city review process could take less than 120 days, Ritenauer and Mason said. In the state audit, the anticipated completion date is March 31 for the review of the loan policies.

The 2014 audit report also noted a significant deficiency in bank reconciliations for Lorain Municipal Court accounts.

The record problems in the court happened because of a number of computer issues starting when new software went live Oct. 1, 2013, and a computer system crash that resulted in lost data from March 1, 2014, to May 19, 2014.

Maiorana estimated the clerks have corrected 99.5 percent of the errors, although the clerk of court’s computer system remains problematic. The clerk’s office is paying a company to support the existing system and in the next year, aims to find a new computer system, she said.

“We are in the process of completing a manual bank reconciliation currently,” Maiorana’s formal response said. “We have been able to identify and disperse most of our money to the various agencies. We still have approximately $34,000 to properly identify and we are continuing to work on that task.”

Lorain County Visitors Bureau wants partnership with county; commissioners to review

By Kaylee Remington, The Morning Journal

POSTED: 01/20/16

Board members of Visit Lorain County – Lorain County Visitors Bureau and staff members attended the Lorain County commissioners meeting Jan. 20 to give support to Executive Director Barb Bickel who gave a presentation of the organization.

The presentation was given in hopes that the commissioners will reconsider the vote of terminating their contract with the Visitors Bureau and entering into a new one. The commissioners voted on the resolution, 3-0, during a Nov. 10 meeting.

Commissioner Matt Lundy said after the meeting that one of the biggest concerns for the commissioners is the meetings have been out of public view and not transparent, which is an issue since the Visitors Bureau receives $500,000 in bed tax money a year.

Lundy added that even the doors would be locked during the meetings. The meetings take place at 8025 Leavitt Road in Amherst.

“The transparency and open meetings was a very big concern,” he said.

Lundy further explained that the commissioners want a more streamlined Visitors Bureau board.

Howard Lane, a Visitors Bureau board member, also spoke to the commissioners Jan. 20 and stated he understands they have issues with its 17-member board of directors.

“We proposed to them, you can have an advisory board as big as you want and the advisory board can be from all over the county,” Lundy said. “That would make it possible for more inclusion. But when it came time to make a decision, it would be limited to nine decision makers.”

The Visitors Bureau leaders could rotate people where someone votes one time and is on the advisory board next, he said.

The board of directors recently voted 7-5 to restructure the board. Lundy, who is on the board of directors, did not vote on the restructuring.

Lane stated during the commissioners’ meeting, the Visitors Bureau has no objections to the meetings being public and admitted it, technically, hasn’t been following the open meetings act. Lane said they haven’t given notices out, either.

Lane, however, stressed that it’s not like the meetings are closed, the board just never gave notice to the public and the media.

“Our lack of adherence to the open meetings act wasn’t a result of any desire to keep anything a secret or deny the commissioners or public access,” he said.

Lane, who has been on the board for five years, said, in the past, the Visitors Bureau hasn’t had problems with the size of the board and it allows for more people to be involved.

“Our current board members are from all over the county,” he said. “But if the plan we are discussing, the nine with the 5/4 split, does go into effect, which again could be a condition of any contract we enter into, the board’s going to have a direct role in choosing who’s going to be on that board and addressing any concerns of geographic misrepresentation that you feel exists.”

Bickel’s presentation showcased the increased usage of the Visitors Bureau.

The lodging tax has gone up 47 percent in the past five years. At the same time, the marketing budget doubled in 2015 and the Visitors Bureau is looking to triple it this year, she said.

The Visitors Bureau’s online presence also has grown.

“For 2010 to 2015, the number of users and sessions have tripled and page views have doubled in that time,” Bickel said.

Social media presence also has increased 20 percent from 2015 to 2016.



The 2016 Adventure and Visitors Info Guide for Lorain County can be picked up on the Ohio Turnpike, Indiana Turnpike, Pennsylvania Turnpike and Ohio Department of Transportation information centers. There are 300 distribution points in Lorain County where people can get the visitors guide.



“We’re incredibly excited and optimistic about the tourism in Lorain County,” Bickel said, adding she hopes issues can be addressed with the commissioners.



At this point, the commissioners are reviewing their presentation and no decision has been made yet, Lundy said.

Lorain Marine Patrol keeps busy in 2015

By Richard Payerchin, The Morning Journal

Eric Bonzar – The Morning JournalThe Lorain Marine Patrol monitors the Black River in June 2015.

Despite bad weather for recreational boating, Lorain’s Marine Patrol kept busy during 2015, according to the Patrol’s annual report.

The Lorain Port Authority oversees the Marine Patrol and Patrol Commander Ed Favre gave the summary of 2015 operations for the Port Authority board, which applies for the state grant funding that helps pay for the local water safety officers.

The Patrol operated from April 12 to Nov. 6, with boat patrols and courtesy vessel safety inspections running from May 2 to Oct. 27.

Like 2014, last year was “not very good” as a boating season, the Patrol report said.

“Heavy early season rains and dominant northerly winds discouraged small boaters,” the report said. “We saw fewer boaters and assisted fewer vessels and persons in non emergency situations.”

However, search and rescue calls from 2014 to 2015 doubled to 14 and the Patrol rescued 17 people from potentially dangerous or life-threatening situations, the report indicated.

The Marine Patrol also increased its written safety inspections from 178 in 2014 to 254 last year. Spot checks also increased from 589 in 2014 to 660 last year.

The Marine Patrol made one arrest last year. There were 48 warnings for not obeying navigation rules; 47 warnings for boats not having proper registration; 40 warnings for careless, negligent or reckless operation; and 37 warnings for boat operators not having required visual distress signals.

Favre said the Patrol officers usually do not go out of their way to cite or arrest people, but issue warnings and assist with safety equipment when possible.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Ohio Division of Watercraft have increased performance expectations about safety and security along Ohio’s shoreline. Much of that emphasis is due to the Republican National Convention scheduled in Cleveland in summer 2016, Favre said.

This year, the Marine Patrol intends to replace its older, heat-generating lights with cooler and brighter LED lights on its patrol vessel. The Patrol seeks out equipment upgrades through the Ohio Division of Watercraft and other partners for free or at minimal expense.

“The Marine Patrol is mindful of limited budget and resources and strives to get the most out of both,” the report said. “We work hard at maintaining good relations with our partners,” including Lorain police and firefighters, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Vermilion Police Department, which also has a marine patrol.

In 2015, the Port Authority and Vermilion police each received state grants of $35,000 to pay for the respective marine patrols.

Last year, the other Lorain Marine Patrol officers were Mark Tomlin, Tom Davis, Todd Pierce, Keith Riggs, Jeremy Tavenner and Terry Stephens.