Winterhurst lease negotiations center on property taxes and profit-sharing

A man exits Winterhurst.

Above, a man exits Winterhurst. The city lost over $1.1 million on the operations of the facility in the four years prior to leasing it to Ice Land USA.

Satisfied with the results of their five-year business relationship, representatives from the city and Ice Land USA are in negotiations to extend the lease contract for Serpentini Arena at Winterhurst Ice Skating Rink for another five years.

Speaking on Monday to the City Council’s Finance Committee, Law Director Kevin Butler described the process as “amicable” and said the new agreement would have “very minimal changes.”

Ice Land USA wants to adjust certain contract terms that concern profit-sharing and property tax reimbursement for the city-owned property, according to Butler.

Since 2008, when the Winterhurst lost its tax exemption after it was leased, Ice Land USA has had to reimburse the city for about a half-million dollars in property taxes. The annual tax bill is now around $130,800.

On top of its yearly $75,000 lease payment to the city, Ice Land USA was also supposed to fork over 10% of its net profits less the cost of improvements it made. Due the extensive investments it did make – over $1million by Butler’s estimate – it hadn’t made any profit-sharing payments, but would soon have to.

The current deal expires on September 13. The administration hopes to get the Council’s approval of a new agreement at its July 15 meeting, before it adjourns for the summer recess.

The length of the new contract will probably be identical to the current one. It will run for five years and Ice Land USA will have three five-year renewal options.

Butler is negotiating on behalf of the city with Ice Land USA attorney Paul Shipp of Weston Hurd.

It should be noted that Ice Land USA owner William Neiheiser is scheduled to be released from a federal prison in Cincinnati on August 11 after serving a sentence for his role in the county corruption scandal.

According to Butler, Neiheiser’s wife assumed his role in the company, although the city has only ever dealt with Winterhurst General Manager Mike Shockely.

“It has not impacted our relationship with that company during the term of lease,” Butler said regarding the Neiheiser situation.

FBI wiretaps revealed that Neiheiser had Jimmy Dimora make a phone call on his behalf in an effort to get the Winterhurst contract and then later cheated on his wife with Winterhurst ice skating instructor Tonia Kwiatkowski.

The city released the timeline of events that preceded the 2008 lease agreement, as well as a transcript of a related Council committee meeting discussion to dispel any notion of wrongdoing on the part of city officials.

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