EAST LIVERPOOL - The credit history of a downtown business owner came into play as the city's Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) finance committee considered Tuesday his loan request to renovate his Fifth Street building.
Brian Kerr, owner of PC Doctors and Laptop Express LLC, had submitted a request for a $25,000 small business loan to use for a complete overhaul of what he has said is the oldest commercial building in the city. He asked to repay the loan over eight years.
Kerr told the committee Tuesday night that he expects the renovation to cost about $58,000 and he has about $38,000 of his own to invest, with the loan more or less serving as a cushion if any unexpected expenses arise.
He offered to allow the CIC to hold his deed as collateral, since he owns the building "free and clear."
The renovation project had been approved last week by the Design Review Board, and Kerr reiterated for the CIC committee what he told that board, that he believes in the downtown.
Committee member Fred Kane said Kerr's estimate "sounds awful cheap to me," considering the scope of the renovation he plans.
Member Bill Cowan, who is also city planning director, asked whether Kerr would consider using his own capital first then, if he finds more money is needed, the CIC could "kick in."
"It makes more sense to use someone else's money up front than my own," Kerr replied.
Asked if the project will result in job creation, Kerr said he recently purchased the Wolfe TV business and he does intend to hire someone for that work.
After making his case, Kerr was asked to leave the meeting so the committee could consider, with member Sherrie Curtis saying she had been given information indicating Kerr has been the subject of legal action for unpaid bills and asked, "Why do you have to go to court to pay your bills?"
She said that, with an estimated project cost of $58,000 and his own $38,000, Kerr should only need an additional $19,000, not the $25,000 he is seeking.
"I'm willing to risk giving him some kind of loan but certainly not $25,000," Curtis said, adding she liked Cowan's suggestion that Kerr first use his own money.
Kane added, "Offering his deed doesn't mean diddly-squat. If (the renovation) isn't done, I don't know what (the building) is worth."
A review of real estate transfers showed Kerr purchased the building - the former Presswell Cleaners - for $21,500.
Member Don Heldman also questioned whether the CIC is getting away from its original purpose, that of helping new businesses and bringing in employment.
"We're getting off track. When I want money, I go to a bank," saying he never even considered coming to the CIC for money to repair his own business building.
Member Al Fricano argued that this would be one of the more secured loans the CIC has made, with Kerr's building as collateral, and said it would be keeping in the spirit of current economic development efforts in the city.
Curtis made a motion to loan Kerr $15,000 for five years, but that motion was not passed by a majority of the board.
A motion by Fricano to loan $20,000 for five years also failed with a 4-3 vote.
Finally, Curtis suggested a compromise, and President Sam Scafide moved to loan Kerr $18,000 for five years, with no caveat that he can come back and ask for more, which Heldman said he would not support. The CIC would retain first mortgage rights on the building until the loan is repaid.
The committee agreed unanimously to forward that recommendation to the CIC board, which will meet at 5:15 p.m. July 8.