Salem council members discuss reactivating CIC for development

SALEM – City council members heard an update Tuesday on restarting the Community Improvement Corporation, a non-profit economic development entity that could acquire, rehabilitate or demolish buildings, access various funding streams and even make loans to businesses.

“There are a lot of very specific steps,” Sustainable Opportunity Development Center Executive Director Larry Kosiba said.

Kosiba made the presentation to the Committee of the Whole, which is comprised of all seven council members, prior to the regular meeting of council. The SOD Center had been contracted last year to determine what was necessary to reconstitute Salem’s version of a CIC, known as the Salem Area Corporation.

The SAC had been chartered by ordinance in 1968, but had been dormant for the past decade under caretaker status through the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce. The topic of a CIC had been raised last year during discussions about the dilapidated TanFastic building downtown and whether the city had any means to solve the situation, perhaps through a CIC trying to acquire the property for rehab or demolition.

A lawsuit filed previously by the city against the TanFastic building owners remains pending in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court.

Councilman Dave Nestic, who’s been pushing for a reactivated CIC, explained the biggest roadblock is funding, noting that no organization runs without it. Kosiba reviewed the next steps needed to initiate CIC operations, with Nestic saying plans call for more discussion of the next steps during a meeting of city council’s Economic Development Committee, which he chairs.

During his presentation, Kosiba explained how there would be five governing board members, with three of them elected officials from the city, including the mayor, president of council and the Economic Development Committee chairman. The CIC would be responsible for any compliance concerns, such as asbestos or lead-based paint, before going forward with a project. Procedures would have to be put in place for CIC operations, for fiscal oversight, acquiring properties, disposing of properties and evaluating potential acquisitions. Staff would need hired or the services could be contracted.

He talked about possible funding sources and went into detail about the information required for some of the federal assistance applications, saying they can take up a lot of time and require a lot of work, with funding necessary to do that.

Councilman Rick Drummond asked if council members put together some of their contingency money, about $21,000 worth, if that would be enough to continue the next steps and get them done. Kosiba said that would be enough, along with matching funds, to get a lot of the steps completed.

Scott and Lisa Cahill, who helped spearhead efforts last year and early this year to complete a Downtown Salem Technical Advisory Committee Plan for revitalizing the downtown, both addressed the CIC issue at the beginning of council’s regular meeting Scott talked about the need for the CIC, which he’s done at previous meetings, and Lisa questioned Kosiba’s presentation and focus on the difficulties associated with some of the funding sources and requirements.

She pointed to the city of East Liverpool and how it uses its CIC very effectively, suggesting Salem officials talk to East Liverpool’s CIC director. She said there’s “no point in reinventing the wheel.”

Scott acknowledged there are difficulties but said that shouldn’t be a reason that the city doesn’t undertake having a CIC.

Nestic said the nature of the report was to just explain the difficulties and that funding will be needed to continue with the reconstitution of the CIC. He said it’s not to say the CIC won’t move forward. He also said the idea of consulting with East Liverpool has already been discussed.

“It’s nice to know that everyone’s in agreement that we need an active CIC,” he said.