The Better Flip…A Timeline…Time for some Answers!

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As Lobbyists for Citizens has done a deep dive into The Better Flip Project, we have determined that it might be helpful to us and to our readers for us to put together a bit of a timeline.

November 20, 2017 – Flip House transfers from Auditors Land Bank State to the Lake County Land Reutilization Corporation (aka Lake County Land Bank)

December 20, 2017 – Port Authority Board Meeting (2017-12-20 minutes)

  • Chairman Art Lindrose (Partner Bolton Pratt, a Cleveland General Contractor) announced that he and his fellow builder on the Board, Bill Martin (Barrington Homes in Concord), will be preparing a budget for the Better Flip Project, i.e. what it would take to bring the home to resale to a millennial. Lindrose notes that it is important the Board understands EVERYTHING up front BEFORE the Board accepts the land and existing structure from the Lake County Land Bank.
  • The Port Authority Board UNANIMOUSLY approves a Resolution No. 2017-46 ACCEPTING the land and existing structure from the Lake County Land Bank. Why would the Board approve this resolution before working up a budget? Remember this date…we will be connecting some dots for you later in the article.

March 28, 2018 – Port Authority Board Meeting (2018-03-28 Minutes)

  • The Board holds a working session before the Port Authority Board meeting. The Better Flip Project was discussed at length. Bill Martin expresses his concerns relative to the target market given the fact that the master bedroom suite is on the first floor, i.e. millennials vs. aging in place.
  • The Port Authority Board UNANIMOUSLY approves Resolution No. 2018-08 setting the budget for the Better Flip Project NOT TO EXCEED $150,000.

    (LFC Comment: Remember, under the Ohio Revised Code, the port authority is not subject to competitive bidding requirements if a project is $150,000 or less.  So, the initial budget was set NOT TO EXCEED $150K…very convenient wouldn’t you say?)

Date Unknown – Replacement of at least one (1) basement wall had to be known PRIOR TO the house being accepted by the Port Authority (required due to the addition being planned) per our conversation with Sean Brennan, Chief Housing and Zoning Inspector for the City of Willowick.

(LFC Comments: We are investigating when the Port Authority knew they would have to completely replace two (2) more walls…STILL awaiting production of records we have requested. Even if they didn’t know about the other 2 walls, a local contractor noted that the most that should have been paid to replace the ENTIRE basement would be about $27K, and the Lake County Taxpayer paid over 2.5 times that at $77K.)

April 24, 2018 – Port Authority makes application for a Building Permit for work to be done at 557 E. 305th Street, Willowick, Ohio (the Flip House). Owner listed as Lake County Port Authority and the estimated cost reflected as $100,000.

May 29, 2018 – Building Permit Application Approved. Remember this date…more dot connecting a little further down. Detail of may 2018 permit

June 12, 2018 – Dye test FAILS at the property side. (DYE TEST FAILURE)

June 25, 2018 – Flip house transfers to the Port Authority from the Lake County Land Bank. (LFC Comments:

  • How could the building permit be approved at the end of May 2018 BEFORE the house transferred to the Port Authority?
  • The transfer occurred two (2) days before the June 27, 2018 Port Authority Board Meeting.
  • Don’t forget that the Board approved a resolution to accept the house from the Lake County Land Bank WAY back in December of 2017, so Rantala must of had this unanimously approved resolution in the hopper.
  • With the replacement of two (2) more basement walls and the failure of the dye test, why did the Port Authority Board continue with this project? Is this something that the construction experts on the Board should have known, or at least be concerned about before approving the project?)

September 30, 2018 – Rantala had already spent $92,773 on The Better Flip Project with over half of that spend, $59,050, going to T. Dowhan Concrete & Sewer Contracting ($42,800 paid on 9/10, $7,600 paid on 9/18, and $8,650 paid on 9/30). Click here to see Rantala’s detailed accounting of The Better Flip Project.

(LFC Comment: We are not certain when the work was actually performed by the contractors listed in the document Rantala provided as the dates are reflective of when invoices were PAID. Have we mentioned we are STILL waiting on records we have requested?)

October 24, 2018 – Port Authority Board Meeting (2018-10-24 Minutes – LCOPEDA)

  • Under West End Update, The Better Flip, Rantala reports that the project has been a struggle, the basement turned out to have more issues than expected as did the sewer causing them to use more of the budget than anticipated. He expects the Port Authority will run out of budget before they run out of project; the project is behind schedule and the auction will now be in the summer of 2019.
  • Rantala goes on to say that the Port Authority took the low bidders as they went; they will use them as salesmen so there will be a groundswell of conversation handy, and to break even they would need a pretty aggressive auction…but they will benefit from the marketing.

    (LFC Comments: Bwha ha ha ha! But seriously though…really? Isn’t it great when cost overruns can be viewed simply as marketing costs?

    In the email Rantala sent with the detailed financial accounting, he pointed out that none of the amounts paid to contractors exceeded the threshold for competitive bidding. So were there REALLY low bidders? Quotes from more than one potential contractor? Still waiting on records.)
  • The Board unanimously approves Resolution No. 2018-24 for a budget adjustment of an additional $60,000 increasing the budget for The Better Flip Project from $150,000 to $210,000.

November 19, 2018 – Port Authority pays APT Electric $8,479. Remember this date… dot connecting!

December 13, 2018 – Port Authority pays Two Seasons Heating & Cooling Contracting $6,857.14. Remember THIS date…more dot connecting…WAIT FOR IT…

December 21, 2018 – Rantala submits permit applications and receives approval of both the same day for Two Seasons Heating and Cooling, Inc. to perform HVAC work and APT Electrical, LLC to perform electrical work at 557 E. 305th Street in Willowick, Ohio (the Flip House).

LFC Comments:

  • It appears that Two Seasons Heating & Cooling, Inc. and APT Electric performed work on the Better Flip Project and were paid for their work BEFORE the permit applications were submitted.
  • LFC has confirmed with Sean Brennan, Chief Housing and Zoning Inspector for the City of Willowick, that APT Electric and Two Seasons Heating & Cooling, Inc. WERE NOT registered with the City of Willowick as of March 6, 2019
  • No cost estimate is given on either permit application; yet based on the financial accounting document Rantala produced, he knew EXACTLY how much the cost was because APT Electric had already been paid $8,479 back on November 19, 2018 and Two Seasons Heating & Cooling had already been paid $6,857.14 back on December 13, 2018.
  • The Property Owner on the permit applications is listed as Mark Rantala rather than the Lake County Port Authority.

December 26, 2018 – Rantala submits permit application and receives approval the same day for Bill Reynolds Heating & Air Conditioning.

February 20, 2019 – There was only $600 left from the original $150,000. (LFC Comment: Fear not Citizen, remember the Port Authority Board unanimously voted to spend more of your money by increasing the budget for this unmitigated disaster to $210,000 back in October.)

February 27, 2018 – Port Authority Board Meeting: The Port Authority Board unanimously approves Resolution No. 2019-09 increasing the budget for the Better Flip Project to nearly $300,000 (another $89,000).

(LFC Comment: Did the Port Authority Board approve this budget increase without a detail of how much was going to be spent with each contractor? Why yes that does appear to be the case. Have we told you that we are awaiting production of records requests? Perhaps we will get them some time this century.

It appears we overestimated the intelligence of Rantala and the entire Port Authority Board to a spectacular degree. We are anxiously awaiting production of our records request from the Port Authority on this Port Authority Project. We may have to take advantage of the Ohio Court of Claims, Public Records Division.



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