Kulpmont wants to sell former Dubbs property, repay county
KULPMONT - Borough officials are looking to unload some property in order to keep good relations with Northumberland County.
Three votes were taken at Tuesday's council meeting involving the solicitation of bids to sell the property at 916 Chestnut St. and pay back $9,057.76 that Northumberland County gave the borough to clean up a debris pile at that site.
The remnants of David Dubbs house, which was destroyed along with three other structures in a 2013 fire, led to a standoff between Dubbs and the borough. After several citations, fines totaling $85,000 and several court hearings, Dubbs eventually signed over the 12-by-150-foot lot to the borough in November in order to have the citations and fines expunged.
Kulpmont entered into an agreement with the county in December to use Act 137 Affordable Housing Trust Fund money for the cleanup, but with a mortgage attached. The mortgage says if Kulpmont sells the property, all proceeds up to the loan amount would be paid back to Northumberland County and the fund.
Another provision says if the property is sold for less than the sum that was given to Kulpmont, the county agrees to forgive the remainder.
At the start of Tuesday's meeting, borough council president Bruno Varano said Kulpmont received an offer on the property, but could not accept it.
"In the borough code it states that any property that the borough owns and wants to sell that has a value of $1,500 or more must be put out through the bidding process," said solicitor William Cole.
Councilmember Phil Scicchitano made a motion to advertise for bids with a reserve price; it was seconded by Nick Bozza. But when asked, council did not want to state a reserve price. Scicchitano then amended the motion for no reserve. On a roll call vote, it was Scicchitano, Bozza and Clarence Deitrick voting to approve the motion, with Varano, Stephanie Niglio, Stephen Motyka and Joseph Winhofer voting no, defeating the motion 3-4.
'Don't want to insult the county'
Northumberland County Commissioner Vinny Clausi addressed council on the matter.
"I think you need to make an effort to sell the property so that we can recoup our money," he said. "You also put a minimum price on the property, or if you put it out on bid, reserve the right to reject all bids if they are too low. What chance do we have, if you don't try to sell it, to recoup the money?"
"The county has given us the money for the project, but you don't want to lose any money, do you?" Winhofer said. "To me, the minimum should be the amount that was paid to us, the $9,000. I voted no because there was no minimum."
"We don't want to insult the county with a $2,500 bid," Varano said.
Varano asked Clausi if there is any more money available to seed the property to grow grass, but Clausi said the borough has gotten enough money.
Near the end of the meeting, Varano made another motion to advertise the property with a reserve bid of $9,300. It was seconded by Deitrick and passed on a 6-1, with Scicchitano casting the lone dissenting vote.
Following a 70-minute executive session, Varano's motion was rescinded and another motion was made to advertise for bids on the property, this time with no reserve, with Deitrick seconding the motion. This time, the motion was approved unanimously.
"Since we have the right to reject all bids, and it is in the mortgage that the debt will be paid from the proceeds, that is why we took off the reserve," Varano said Wednesday.
Varano said council discussed the property in the executive session and after receiving a proposal for $935 to put grass seed down for planting, and the cost of maintaining the lot, council members were motivated to unload the property.
More properties in distress
Code enforcement officer Russ Moroz gave updates on two other properties in disarray, starting with the former Eagle Sign building at 13th and Oak streets owned by Thomas Valeiko, of Commack, N.Y., which collapsed in February and was torn down by the borough.
"Mr. Valeiko is being fined daily since the property is not being cleaned up," Moroz said. "He has not returned my calls, and we are at a standstill with the property."
Moroz said a crew employed by Valeiko has been in to strip metal from the building, but has not returned since and ceased correspondence.
Cole informed council he has been in contact with the chief and that criminal charges for Valeiko are pending.
"Let's get on the ball with this," Winhofer added.
Ed Wojcik, a neighbor of the property, informed council his property was damaged in the demolition, and that repairs done by the contractor were not done correctly. Varano said council will contact the contractor.
"There is also a truck on the property that has gas and oil in it that was crushed by the falling bricks," Wojcik said. "It should be removed."
Legally, the borough cannot go onto the property, but it can be investigated from Wojcik's property to see if there any issues.
The other property in question is the former Kulpmont Textile Mill, last owned by Buzzy Inc.
"The mill is still a dangerous structure, and everyone should stay out of it," Moroz said. "We met last week with DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) and three asbestos abatement contractors. The asbestos in the property in the boiling room is very bad. The only thing helping is that water is getting in the room and keeping the airborne asbestos down."
Moroz said the property owners have been given 90 days to take care of the asbestos and the hazardous waste inside, but nothing else can be removed until the asbestos is out.
Maple Street behind the mill will remain closed to traffic until both smokestacks at the mill come down, and the property owners have been made aware of that, according to Moroz.