2008-12-18 / Front Page

Council considers bids for former town office building

By Sam Bari

The Town Council, sitting as the Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners, at its Dec. 15 meeting discussed the only two proposals it received to purchase the former town office buildings at 44 Southwest Ave.

The Jamestown Art Center proposed to purchase the property for $550,000. However, the offer was subject to a new appraisal and did not specify a closing date. The proposal also said that the JAC would solicit funding after the council expressed interest in their proposal.

Councilman Robert Sutton said, "A firm date should be established to consummate the sale." Council President Julio Di Giando suggested that six-months would be a fair amount of time to put funding in order.

Sutton said he did not agree that the price should hinge on a second appraisal after the purchase and sale agreement was made. He said that meant the town would be accepting an offer without a specified firm price.

"If a new appraisal is substantially lower than the original $540,000 appraisal, does that mean the offer of $550,000 is no longer valid?" he asked. He said the purchase and sale agreement should be based on the present appraised value and the firm offer of $550,000.

JAC Chairwoman Kate Petrie and board member Elizabeth Congdon, who represented the JAC at the meeting, agreed that six-months was fair. Congdon said that the JAC would either raise the cash through donations or arrange bridge financing to complete the sale and give the JAC more time to raise the required funding. They also agreed to withdraw the need for a second appraisal.

Councilman William Kelly said, "Water and sewer rate payers should be given an opportunity to give their input about the matter at a public hearing because the property was originally funded by a bond issue that was paid for with water revenues." The council agreed.

During the open forum, Robert Dolan of Coronado Street suggested that a non-refundable deposit be attached to the purchase and sale agreement in case the funding did not go through. Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said that a required 5-percent deposit was included in the request for proposals.

Dolan said that the council was obligated to the ratepayers to negotiate the highest price possible for the property so they could get a good return on their investment.

The other proposal came from builder Paul Andrews for $500,000. The proposal required the town to hold the mortgage on the property at an annual interest rate of 4 percent for a period of five years.

Kelly said that he felt that the council would be more amenable to the Arts Center's proposal. He said the Andrews proposal was less favorable because it deferred payments and expected the town to hold a note at the rate of 4 percent, which was a favorable amount even in this soft economy.

The council voted unanimously to consider the JAC proposal and allow Keiser and Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero to negotiate an agreement on behalf of the town and present the results at the next meeting.

In another matter, the council weighed the case of Tammy and Stephen Fasano who were not properly billed for water and sewer usage since September of 2002. Town Administrator Keiser said that although the error was on the town's part, the responsibility of the bill still fell on the customer. The balance owed was $2,796.

Town Solicitor Ruggiero concurred with Keiser and said that the town had every right to enforce collection.

Councilman Sutton spoke in defense of the Fasanos and said, "There should be a sense of fairness in the matter since the town did make the error." Council Vice President Michael White agreed and said that he felt the town should take some responsibility for not billing correctly. Councilor Kelly added, "Something should be worked out by first starting with determining how the error happened."

Di Giando said there was the question of an inequity and that the matter should be discussed with the Town Administrator and put on the January agenda. Ruggiero said that the town could work out some terms. The councilors agreed and voted to continue the matter until the next meeting.

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