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Vehicle storage company seeks settlement for overdue loans

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The Fort Drum Vehicle Storage company hopes to settle more than $57,000 in overdue loans with the Watertown Local Development Corp. and the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency.

Ruby “Charlene” Williams, chief financial officer for Fort Drum Vehicle Storage, said Tuesday the company has approached the economic development agencies about an out-of-court settlement over the unpaid loans.

The WLDC, also known as the Watertown Trust, is the lead agency in dealing with the company over the back taxes issue. In November, the Watertown Trust initiated legal action against the company to collect the overdue loans.

On Wednesday, Donald W. Rutherford, chief executive officer for the Watertown Trust, confirmed the company asked to settle the matter over the unpaid loans, but it has not gone any further than that. The matter is with the agency’s attorney, Steven M. Gebo, he said.

As it was proposed, Fort Drum Vehicle Storage wanted the Watertown Trust to present a figure for the company to pay, Mr. Rutherford said.

“It doesn’t work that way,” he said. “We told them to submit a figure and the board would decide whether to accept it.”

The company was formed in 2005 to serve deploying soldiers in need of a place to store their vehicles but has been better known in the past year for its financial missteps.

However, Ms. Williams insisted the company is on the rebound. Fort Drum Vehicle Storage is in the process of moving into a new building at 968 Bradley St. after company owners JoAnn Sanchez-Norquist and her husband, John S. Norquist, lost a warehouse in July they owned at 753 Rear W. Main St. because they failed to pay back taxes.

The company has a three-year lease for the former Northland Motors Technology plant on Bradley Street to store as many as 300 vehicles, Ms. Williams said.

“I’ve been wanting to get my hands on the building for three years,” she said, noting that was when Northland Motors closed.

Company officials had hoped to move into the vacant building within the next couple of weeks, but those plans have hit a snag.

On Tuesday, the city’s code enforcement officers toured the Bradley Street building to see what changes have to be made to store vehicles because of the change in use. Ms. Williams was notified then that an engineer or architect needs to show how the company plans to make the building comply with code regulations.

With that decision, it will take longer for the move to happen, Ms. Williams said.

The company already stores vehicles in properties in Oswego and Sandy Creek owned by Laser Transit, a warehousing and transportation company based in Lacona, she said.

In all, the company has contracts to store 483 vehicles, including 312 clients who are Fort Drum soldiers now deployed overseas, she said. They are charged $100 to $175 per month, depending on the service package, Ms. Williams said.

Despite the new location and popularity with deployed soldiers, Ms. Sanchez-Norquist is still delinquent on her taxes for six commercial properties she owns in Jefferson County, said City Attorney David J. Paulsen. She still has failed to pay $85,235.98 in back taxes, interest and late fees on those properties.

The county has initiated tax foreclosure proceedings on four of them: Fort Drum Studio-Tels (the former Redwood Motor Lodge) at 24097 Route 12 in the town of Watertown; Sir Robert Peel Motor Lodge at 44810 Route 12 in the town of Alexandria; the former Gunns Corners Inn, 29613 Route 12 in the town of Clayton, and Fort Drum Storage, a series of small storage units at 22271 Teal Drive in Pamelia.

Foreclosure proceedings have not been started on two others, but she still owes back taxes on the Hotis Motel at 23442 Route 37 in the town of Pamelia and an adjacent parcel at Studio-Tels at 24103 Route 12, Mr. Paulsen said.

In addition, Ms. Sanchez-Norquist also owes $37,778.97 for Sanquist Properties, a 28-unit apartment building at 505 Washington St., according to the city of Watertown assessor’s office.

The mortgage holder on that property, City National Bank, filed state Supreme Court foreclosure action Friday, claiming Sanquist Properties has not made a mortgage payment since last February. The bank claims about $844,000 is owed in principal payments, according to court documents.

Wanting to get out of the real estate business, Ms. Williams said her supervisor has placed all of those properties on the market, with a potential buyer for the Washington Street apartment building. But Mr. Paulsen noted the buyers would have to pay the back taxes on the properties as well as the agreed purchase price.

Karen M. Carson, an associate broker with Pyramid Brokerage Corp., has had two dealings with Ms. Sanchez. About six years ago, Ms. Sanchez wanted the broker to list her properties, but Ms. Carson backed off from taking on the job, she said. They could not agree on her commission, contending Ms. Sanchez wanted to pay a 3 percent commission when she normally receives 7 percent, the real estate broker said.

In October, Ms. Sanchez was seeking warehouse space in a building in Adams, but she persuaded the unnamed owner it might not be worth the trouble after telling him about the company’s bad publicity.

“He decided he didn’t want to deal with her unless she paid a lot of money, paid a year’s lease in advance,” she said.

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