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To sell or not to sell seized property?

September 12th, 2012

City Councilwoman Gay Lee wants the City of Newburgh to turn city-owned properties over to the Newburgh Housing Authority for use by the city’s poorest residents.

Lee, a member of the housing authority board prior to her election to the city council, has submitted her resignation from the housing authority but continues to serve until a replacement has been appointed.

City Corporation Counsel Michelle Kelson told the city council Thursday night that the city can’t afford to lose the taxes the city will gain by selling the properties at auction to be held on Wednesday, Oct. 17. There are 30 properties on the auction list and the city has budgeted $65,000 as a minimum it expects to gain through the sale.

One of the properties Kelson said the city should sell at auction is an apartment complex at 279 Liberty St. Kelson said the City doesn’t have the staff to manage occupied buildings. Asked how many units there are in the complex, she said she couldn’t say.

“Why not transfer the property to the Newburgh Housing Authority?” Lee asked Thursday night. She said she prefers to wait rather than sell the property at less than it is worth.

“Waiting is how we got into this mess in the first place,” responded Kelson, who said she anticipated that the council would go along with her recommendation and already listed it with the company handling the auction.

“You can always pull the listing if you wish,” said Kelson, adding that the City Council should look at the auction sales as a business plan.

“You need to get these properties back on the tax rolls,” Kelson said.

“How many buildings does the City have that are occupied? Lee inquired.

“Ten,” she was told.

Lee said that she still prefers to wait.

“What did we budget as income for the auction properties?” Councilman Cedric Brown asked.

“Sixty-five thousand,” he was informed.

“We have to at least make that,” Lee offered.

It was at this point that Kelson reminded the council that the City continues to acquire properties “that we don’t have the staff to manage.

“To continue to hold into these properties is a drain on City resources,” Kelson said.

“I don’t see a need to rush into selling this piece of property,” Lee said

One alternative to an open sale would be sale through a sealed-bid process, Kelson suggested.

“The sealed-bid process makes more sense,” Lee countered, adding that she wanted to see “what kind of a deal” she could broker through the Housing Authority.

“We may have to leave the property on the auction list, but at least we’ll have options,” Lee said.

Along with 279 Liberty St., the council was told that Kelson had added 146 Chambers St. and 7-9 Van Ness St. to the auction list.

At Monday night’s City Council meeting at the City Activity Center the council rejected a plan to sell all three properties at auction. Instead, the City will try to sell 279 Liberty St. and 146 Chambers St. through a sealed bid process requiring the bidder to specify how the bidder plans to use the property (as well as the price being offered). The property at 7-9 Van Ness will be offered at auction.

Three other properties, two of which are occupied, will be offered through sealed bids, the council was told. They are at 55 Fullerton Ave. and 16 Lutheran St. A third property, at 29 Chambers St., was once the old dog pound.

Another property, 186 Dubois St., was taken in 2009 for owed back taxes. The City needs to realize a little more than $30,800 to make the City whole, Kelson said.

By ALLAN GAUL
agaul@tcnewspapers.com

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