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City Approves $1 Property Sale

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The Ogdensburg City Council narrowly approved the sale of the city-owned 611 Rensselaer Ave. property to the Ogdensburg Growth Fund Development Corp. for the nominal fee of $1 at Monday’s council meeting.

Growth fund Administrative Director Andrea L. Smith said the fund plans on converting the “two bedroom, one bathroom home into a three bedroom, two full bathroom home that meets [city] codes.”

Once the renovations are completed the fund plans on selling the home to put it back on the city’s tax base, Ms. Smith said. The property was picked up by the city in 2012 in a tax sale and is currently assessed at roughly $34,000.

Ms. Smith, who also serves as the city’s director of planning and development, said that if the city was not able to sell it they would likely be forced to demolish the building due to its condition.

The home’s roof is caved-in in some places and would need remodeling to bring it up to code.

Councilor Jennifer Stevenson said, “At this point [the property is] really a liability to us.”

The decision to sell the property was met with opposition by Councilor Daniel E. Skamperle who said the sale wasn’t fair.

“I support the fact that I want to get the property back on the tax roll,” he said, adding that “we should put it out for sale at fair market value.”

Mr. Skamperle said private contractors should have a shot at the property. “Why not give it to private developers for $1?”

Although Ms. Stevenson and Councilors Wayne L. Ashley and William D. Hosmer agreed that contractors are welcome to try to reinvigorate the city’s housing stock, the consensus of council was that passing up the opportunity offered by the growth fund would be a poor decision.

“I think if a contractor will come in with a viable plan then we should talk,” Mr. Hosmer said. “So far no one has done it.”

Mr. Ashley said he believes the growth fund has the long term interests of the city at heart with the project. “I wholly support the project.”

Mayor William D. Nelson, who also serves as chair of the growth fund, said he believes the project will ultimately transform the “ugliest house on the block” into something the neighborhood can be proud of.

An engineer with the Development Authority of the North Country estimated that the home could be rehabilitated for under $60,000.

Ms. Smith said the home needs new siding, some minor structural work, a new roof and other interior upgrades.

Mr. Skamperle was the only council who voted against the sale giving the motion the super-majority of six councilors it needed to pass.

At Monday’s meeting City Council also formalized an agreement with the growth fund that will see the city reimbursed for time that city employees spend working on growth fund projects.

The agreement was passed unanimously.

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