by Rachel Hunter
The Town of Gouverneur has conditionally accepted a purchase offer from Clark Porter of Gouverneur for 1, 3, 5 and 7 East Main Street in Gouverneur at the price of $30,000, payable upon passing the deed. This includes the vacant commercial properties from the former Jumbo’s Diner at the corner of Clinton and East Main Street to the former Deep Down Divers Shop. The Town of Gouverneur board unanimously approved Town Supervisor Dave Spilman, Jr. to sign the purchase offer, contingent upon legal counsel approval.
As was earlier reported, The Town of Gouverneur purchased the property, which was last owned by former Gouverneur resident Tammy Groves, after being the only bidder at a foreclosure auction in December 2018. Groves filed for bankruptcy in 2017, and she owed $76,448 on the property, including roughly $49,000 that remained on a $50,000 micro- enterprise loan she received. The Town of Gouverneur purchased the building to protect their assets, and subsequently put it up for sale.
Town of Gouverneur Supervisor Dave Spilman, Jr. reported at the March 12 town board meeting there was interest from two parties, but the other potential buyer backed out on March 5. “I am hoping we can make Mr. Clark Porter the new owner of the Jumbo’s building,” he said. “I have been talking with him since before we took the building back. He was interested in purchasing the building from Mrs. Groves, but unfortunately when she was in bankruptcy nothing could happen till we came to this point. I told him I would pass along the big word that he hit me with. He said he was going to start with the gentrification process on the building as soon we can get all the legal stuff done... It’s a word that he learned from all the stuff he does in Potsdam, and it does refer to the historical renovation of these types of buildings.”
Supervisor Spilman also added that while Mr. Porter’s plans for the building are not definite, he is considering using the ground level as retail space on the ground floor, and putting apartments in on the second floor. “There will be more news to come on that,” Supervisor Spilman said.
The Town of Gouverneur board agreed to reconvene the regular monthly board meeting on Wednesday, March 13 to read the purchase offer and take preliminary action. During that meeting, Supervisor Spilman informed all gathered in the town offices building that the purchase offer was contingent upon the seller (the Town of Gouverneur) being willing to pay all real estate taxes assessed against premises up to and including 2020 town and county taxes, contingent on the sale and including all furniture, furnishings, equipment presently located in the premise, and contingent on the allocation of purchase price of real property and furniture, furnishings, equipment to the satisfaction of the court system. It was at this meeting that the Town of Gouverneur board unanimously approved Town Supervisor Dave Spilman, Jr. to sign the purchase offer, contingent upon legal counsel.
On Thursday, March 14 Supervisor Spilman met with Town Attorney Henry Leader of Case & Leader Law Firm, LLP in Gouverneur to sign the purchase agreement. This fact was made public knowledge at the March 19 meeting of the Village of Gouverneur board of Trustees.
Village of Gouverneur Mayor Ron McDougall said the following: “On Thursday, while the ink was still wet, he was up on the roof…” Town of Gouverneur Supervisor Dave Spilman, Jr. the commented: “Yes, he was up on the roof making temporary fixes to it. He got it slowed down I believe from 50 gallons per hour to 1 gallon per day.”
At the village board meeting, the trustees decided to use their shared services agreement in exchange for the unpaid water/sewer bill in the amount of $4,246.08. For an explanation on this matter, Mayor McDougall turned to the village’s legal counsel, Henry Leader of Case & Leader, LLP in Gouverneur.
“It is very important and the Town has worked very, very hard to preserve a landmark known as Jumbo’s Diner,” Attorney Leader said. “They are working diligently to get the property back on the tax rolls. As for the water/sewer bills, the Village would like to cooperate and forgive that bill but they are unable to. A municipality cannot make a gift. However, it appears the Town has provided several days of assistance for snow removal, use of equipment, and Internet service, so there can be consideration, not in the form of monetary consideration, but in the form of equal exchange of services. And that would allow the Village to consider the water/sewer bill satisfied. It will be an accounting thing to.”
Deputy Mayor Charles Newvine then asked, “To put it in layman’s terms?” “You can’t forgive it, but you can trade,” Attorney Leader replied.
Continuing the discussion on the properties’ water/sewer, Mayor McDougall said “He has seven units presently. It’s actually one deed. We are proposing that when he starts he be billed for one sewer unit, until he gets up and running and he when he puts his first business in there, he’ll still have one, but when he gets his second business in there, he’ll have the second sewer unit, etc., and of course with the water meter for all seven that makes that a moot issue, but we have to make a motion to accommodate this.”
The motion was made by Deputy Mayor Charles Newvine, seconded by Trustee Richard Wood. Mayor McDougall asked if there was any more discussion. Trustee Troy Besaw asked, “We aren’t setting a precedence by doing this?” “I don’t think we are,” Mayor McDougall said. “You are well within your rights,” Attorney Leader said.
“The only thing I ask, because I am sure Clark will cooperate, is we ensure that when he does get another unit on that he is charged on the sewer bill in a timely fashion and that it follows the local law as far as it should be restaurant or diner, it’s one and a half units, whatever the local law reads. Just to ensure that Clark cooperates with us, which I am sure he will be, so that when he adds another unit on, it is billed properly.”
Mayor McDougall then said the following: “Along those lines, we are working on (even though it is in private property now), the Main Street grants, downtown grants do qualify. We’ve been working very hard. We talked to Bernier & Carr about that, and that grant allocation has not come out yet, but when it does we will be getting on that, in particular for that property.”
“To ensure that the planning and zoning is not followed strictly, but followed just like it would be anyone else, that we are not doing anything different than what should be allowed, and that it is going through the proper channels, planning and zoning as far as what businesses can be there, what apartments can be there… If there are apartments there, there would be more parking issues which would make it more difficult for us to clean the municipal parking lot. So there’s a lot of things. This is going to need attention, so that we don’t let it fall through the cracks like some other things have.”
Mayor McDougall then commented, “Along those lines, we were quite pleased when the town went to the foreclosure sale, and was able to get that, and at least get it in to what I perceive to be a re-developer.”
The village board then approved the motion regarding the water/sewer billing at the properties in question.
The next meeting of the Town of Gouverneur board is to be held on Tuesday, April 9 at 6 p.m. in the town offices building. The next regular monthly meeting of the Village of Gouverneur Board of Trustees is to be held on April 16 at 7 p.m. in the municipal courtroom.