NEWTON FALLS, Ohio (WKBN) – A settlement has been reached in a dispute over the Newton Falls Community Center.
Heritage Accord, a nonprofit organization working to restore the center, filed a motion for a temporary restraining order against the City of Newton Falls and Newton Falls Community Improvement Corporation earlier this year after the city tried terminating its lease.
Under the terms of a settlement reached Tuesday, both parties agreed to dismiss claims against one another. According to court records, the lease will remain in effect unless a grant that the village is trying to receive requires just the village on the lease. The agreement also mentions continuing involvement with some members of Heritage Accord being appointed to positions.
In March 2020, Heritage Accord entered into a lease with the City of Newton Falls Community Improvement Corp. — an agency of the city — with the terms that it would restore and preserve the center.
The motion filed in Trumbull County earlier this year by Heritage Accord’s attorney David Engler contended that the city and Newton Falls Community Improvement terminated its lease with Heritage Accord in July, and the motion sought to stop the city from enforcing the end of that lease and denying of Heritage Accord’s access to the center.
The Community Center on E. Quarry Street opened in 1941 as a United Service Organizations (U.S.O.) building to provide service to civil defense workers at the Ravenna Munitions Plant, now Camp Garfield. According to the motion for a temporary restraining order, Heritage Accord sought to protect the center’s historic significance as it is one of only four Type “A” buildings still standing in the U.S. The goal was to restore the center and reopen it for public use.
The city accepted Heritage Accord’s proposal to restore the center, and a lease was negotiated after that. According to Heritage Accord’s affidavit, the terms of the lease say Heritage Accord was to be given a written notice of default and 90 days to cure any defaults before it could be terminated.
The nonprofit organization contended that it has made several repairs and improvements to the property since it began restoration, including remediating serious mold issues and removing “an enormous amount of debris that had accumulated in the Community Center over the years of disuse.”
Even so, Heritage Accord contended that Newton Falls City Council approved a motion returning the Community Center to city control, even though Heritage Accord was in full compliance with its lease agreement. According to the affidavit, the city issued a notice of the lease termination on July 17 and barred Heritage Accord access to the center on July 18.
During a meeting in May, First Ward Councilman Gideon Fetterolf stated that little progress had been made at the center, saying, “Probably one of our biggest problems is, for the last four years since [Heritage Accord] took over, we’ve been hearing, ‘I’ve got to do this,’ ‘we’re doing that,’ yet, we look over there and see nothing.”
A representative with Heritage Accord had said then that the organization was busy raising funds to meet the goal.