Catasauqua Press

Friday, July 19, 2019

Property sales agreements in question

Wednesday, March 13, 2019 by PAUL CMIL Special to The Press in Local News

Borough to bid former municipal building; solicitor to review East End pact

Resolutions to sell borough property gained the spotlight at Catasauqua Borough Council’s regular meeting March 4.

The first resolution involved the sale of the former municipal building, classified as the Catasauqua Municipal Center Condominium, at 118 Bridge St. The sale, discussed at an earlier meeting of council, was understood as complete. But life during real estate negotiations is seldom easy. The understanding was that the property would be sold to the Housing Authority of Lehigh County because it was the highest bidder and owns other units in the building.

However, there was a disagreement over the terms of the contract. Council has now rescinded the existing agreement and reissued the bid request for a new sale.

Council will bid the property with a provision that the property can only be used for low-income housing for the elderly or the administration of low-income housing for a period of 10 years after the sale. The property will be awarded to the highest bidder.

The East End Fire Company, officially East End Independent Hose and Chemical Company No. 1, was sold by agreement to Catasauqua Borough Council President Vincent Smith. Now, there is a question if the nonprofit fire company had the authority to sell the property. The borough has a working agreement to purchase the building for $1,500. Smith made an offer of $31,000.

The deal was to close before the end of 2018. That did not happen, but Smith put up $20,000 as earnest money and made improvements to the property to prevent further damage and stabilize the structure.

The proposal in front of council addressed title and repair issues that would need to be completed by the borough, which would run costs above the $1,500 borough option.

The borough offered to forgo its interest for $1. The transfer would be made via quitclaim deed. A quitclaim deed does not address any other potential claimants but only sells the borough’s claim to the property.

Councilman Brian Bartholomew indicated there was not a final determination from the solicitor on the process as outlined in the resolution. He was reluctant to allow the council president to purchase the property under an assumption that Smith potentially received a benefit. An executive session after the meeting addressed the discrepancies. Smith did not attend the executive session, but council failed to advance the ordinance.

Smith said, after the meeting, he was acting in good faith during the sales process. According to him, former borough Manager Eugene Goldfeder passed the authorization to sell the building to the fire department — the logic being that the building was owned by an independent group that supported the fire department and allowed the department to store trucks in the building. The social group is now disbanded.

The fire department entered into the sale with Smith because he had the highest bid and the property was no longer usable as a club.

The solicitor will take the matter under review and make recommendations to council on how to move forward. Neither the borough nor the fire department is interested in keeping the building.

In other action, council appointed Shannon Calluori, of Codemasters, as building code official for the borough. According to borough Manager Stephen Travers, the former firm was not meeting local commitments. The borough’s existing, part-time code officials will continue in their present positions. The appointment was a managerial change.

Council approved a resolution to donate $500 to Cedarbrook Sportsmen to fund a portion of the annual trout stocking for Catasauqua Creek.