Former Washington Elementary School purchased at judicial sale
SUNBURY - The former Washington Elementary School building was sold Wednesday morning as the most expensive single purchase at the Northumberland County Judicial Sale in the public meeting room at the county administration center.
The property at 109 E. Sunbury St., Shamokin, was purchased for $8,038.60 by Twilight Beginnings, West Avenue in Mount Carmel, that has been involved in a legal battle with Union Evangelical Free Church, Locustdale, since 2011.
Attempts to reach Twilight Beginnings or company agent Joan Cicchiello Wednesday evening to discuss the purchase were unsuccessful.
The three-story, red brick building, which was built in 1880, is located in the city's eighth ward along Route 61.
It was last owned by Rosa Hernandez, who purchased the building from Shamokin Independent Baptist Church in 2006 for $15,000. Hernandez's address at the time of the sale six years ago was 308 12th St., Brooklyn, N.Y.
City Councilman and Director of Public Safety R. Craig Rhoades said it's been at least 10 years since it was used as a church and private school. It was last used as a public school in the late 1970s.
"The only thing that raises concern is what their intentions are. Do they realize that, if it's going to be occupied, it's got to be brought up to standards, whether it's going to be a church or a school or whatever," Rhoades said.
The building has sustained water damage and has been vacant for years, he said.
"A lot will have to be done to bring it up to acceptable standards," Rhoades said.
The building was originally up for bid Wednesday during the judicial sale of 67 properties, but no one cast a bid during the auction when it came up for consideration. While other properties were being presented for bid, Northumberland County Commissioner Vinny Clausi, who had left the room for a few minutes, returned to ask a legal question of Solicitor Vince Rovito about an interested buyer of the former school.
The individual who purchased the property wanted to buy it, but missed the chance to do so during the bid process. Since it was not purchased by anyone else, Rovito said the person was allowed to purchase it for the base bid.
In June 2011, the congregation of Union Evangelical was locked out of a Mount Carmel building it was renting from Twilight Beginnings. After a lengthy court case, Columbia County Court ordered the doors opened so church members could retrieve their belongings in April 2012. The case was conducted in Columbia County Court after Northumberland County judges recused themselves in the case due to prior conflicts with Cicchiello.
On Feb. 9, Cicchiello filed a defamation of character lawsuit against the church and pastor Larry Coutlee in Northumberland County Court.