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Council open to offers

January 16th, 2013

Members of the Newburgh City Council continue to reach out to the residents who are in the process of losing their homes because of unpaid taxes, but those homeowners shouldn’t look to the city to give their homes back for a fraction of the debt owed.

Owners of four homes that were seized for failure to pay back taxes were in negotiations with the city to reclaim those homes. Three of the four – owners of 459 First St., 11 Van Ness St. and 72 Hasbrouck – offered to repurchase their homes for the entire debt owed. The previous owners (or families) of 459 First St. ($15,056.23) and 11 Van Ness St. ($13,803.26) have offered to pay the entire amounts in cash.

The City Council Monday night authorized the sale of 11 Van Ness St. to Marcos R. Romero for the full amount owed on that property. They also authorized the sale of 459 First St. to Lorraine C. Penney for the full amount owed on that property.

The prior owner of 72 Hasbrouck has offered to buy back that property for $14,257.15 but is seeking a payment plan following a sizable down payment. The prior owners of 296 Grand St. have offered a fraction ($10,000) of the $58,473.75 outstanding debt owed on that property but met stiff resistance from members of the City Council.

“I don’t want to create a situation where people don’t pay their taxes, then get the property for less than they owed,” Mayor Judy Kennedy said Thursday night during a council work session.

Councilwoman Gay Lee suggested that she favored whatever plan the City can draft in order to allow people to get their homes back.

Corporation Counsel Michelle Kelson said that she and staff member Courtney Kain would meet with the former owners to try to work out a payment schedule.

“If we can work this out that’s four more families that are able to keep their homes,” Kennedy said.

“But we need some direction,” Kain countered. The family on 296 Grand St. offered just $10,000. The debt on that property is $58,473.”

“Ten thousand dollars is low; $55,000 is high,” Kennedy suggested. “Can we negotiate?”

Several members of the council said they thought $20,000 or $25,000 would be a possible compromise.

“That’s in the ballpark,” Councilman Curlie Diullard said.

It was unclear if the negotiations could be completed in time for Monday night’s regular council session.

City Manager Rick Herbek started the Thursday night meeting by announcing that “we have some good news coming out of the Regional Economic Council that we’ve been awarded a $200,000 grant. This is for 13-15 Chambers St. It was actually removed from the potential inventory we transferred to the Land Bank. We might want to reconsider that because of this $200,000

“The funds are essentially designated to create ground-floor office space and classroom space for use by the Land Bank. A second phase would create financial and office space.”

Herbek said that Burton Towers received $10 million and Mount Saint Mary College has received $1 million, so those are all good things entering the year 2013.

Councilman Dillard wanted to know “with these grant funds coming in, is it possible that we could send someone from the city to try to negotiate jobs for city people?”

“To the recipient of the grant,” Dillard clarified.

“I don’t see any problem at all in having a discussion with Mountco and Mount Saint Mary College,” Herbek responded. “We’re in continuous contact with them.”

By ALLAN GAUL
agaul@tcnewspapers.com

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