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RDA talks additional demolition expenses

Last summer, the Warren County Redevelopment Authority bulk-bid demolition of four blighted properties throughout the county.

The demolition costs were largely covered through federal Community Development Block Grant funds.

But other costs associated with that process are coming to roost.

The RDA grappled with that issue on Tuesday morning.

“You all have to decide what you want to put liens on them for,” Grants Administrator Lorri Dunlap told the RDA.

The properties are located at 3 Economy St. in Tidioute (owned by the RDA), 124 N. Main St., Clarendon (owned by Clarendon Borough) and two properties – 4582 Rt. 6 in Sheffield Township and 7 Exchange St. in Clarendon which are owned privately but the RDA holds conservatorship over, meaning the RDA has latitude to set the lien amount on the property.

What’s invested by the county in each property? In Tidioute, all costs total roughly $17,500, $8,200 for the Rt. 6 property, $9,000 at N. Main St. and $7,000 on Exchange St. in Clarendon. That covers legal fees and demolition costs.

So what should those lien amounts be set at?

“If the RDA wants to see these properties back on the tax rolls, most of them are very small properties, postage stamp size,” County Planner Dan Glotz said. “(You) have to be cautious to how much of a lien….. (You) have to make them attractive for sale.”

Officials calculated the fair market value for each property and Authority chair Charles Barone suggested the liens be for the full amount.

For the Tidioute property, the total invested – over $17,000 – far exceed the fair market value of the parcel, calculated at about $10,000.

Dunlap described that as the “cost of doing business” if the Authority wants the property demolished.

She suggested a $3,000 to $5,000 cost for the property and explained the RDA could put the property out for highest bid and reserve the opportunity to reject bids.

Authority member Joe Scully moved to sell the property for $5,000, a motion approved unanimously.

Regarding 124 N. Main St. in Clarendon, the borough owns that property and Dunlap said there is an agreement that if the borough sells the property for a use outside of CDBG programming that the borough must reimburse the RDA the appraised value of the property.

Authority member Rob Hart, who serves on the borough’s council, said the property is all town down, suggested a bid model and said he would present that to council at its next meeting.

Barone suggested a full $8,000 on the Rt. 6 property and Dunlap said it would “wait to sit there forever then.”

Authority member Pam Matve noted that if the property was sold “we would have to get our lien money” but Dunlap noted she’s seen these liens missed in other situations.

Barone suggested the property would head to the county’s repository where the lien would go away anyway.

Dunlap noted there is a cost – upwards of $1,000 – just to place the liens.

Matve said she would like to research the lien process to determine if the RDA could place the liens without counsel. She ultimately made a motion to table action – which was approved – on the Rt. 6 and Exchange St. properties while the lien filing issue is examined more thoroughly.

“I don’t know of an attorney on the planet that is going to tell you you can do your own lien work,” Commissioner Jeff Eggleston said. He proposed consulting with the county’s solicitor, Nathaniel Schmidt, because “most of these items are pretty routine in my opinion.”

“If we can get the boiler plate liens… and do it ourselves,” Matve said, “we’re going to save.”

Eggleston then pitched the challenge to the rest of the commissioners in a work session held on Tuesday afternoon, suggesting the county solicitor work with the RDA to “handle a lot of the routine legal work for the RDA so they do not incur costs.”

Commissioner Ben Kafferlin didn’t object but did say he wanted to be able to track how much of the solicitor’s fees are spent on behalf of the RDA.

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