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Unused property tough sell

Commissioners increase efforts to deal real estate, but they face many hurdles to reach $842,500 in revenue budgeted for 2009.

Luzerne County Commissioners have stepped up efforts to sell unused county-owned property, but it’s unclear if they’ll come up with the $842,500 in revenue budgeted for 2009.

No money has come in for land sales this year to date, officials say.

The county tried to sell the Hazleton annex, but there were no bidders.

Commissioners were forced to terminate a sales agreement to unload the old Springbrook Water Co. building in Wilkes-Barre because the buyer kept asking for extensions.

An extension was granted Thursday for the sale of a vacant lot near the old juvenile detention center because the buyer needs more time to secure financing.

County Engineer Joe Gibbons said the $842,500 revenue projection wasn’t “outlandish.” In comparison, the county’s 2008 budget had counted on $6.3 million in land sales that never materialized.

“You can’t predict real estate,” Gibbons said.

County officials will continue to comb through county property holdings looking for potential sales, said county Chief Clerk/Manager Doug Pape.

“We’re trying to put as many as we can on the market,” he said.

Commissioners voted Thursday to list four vacant Dallas Township properties with Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services, which was hired by the county in 2007 to help market and sell surplus county-owned properties.

The four Dallas Township properties are a little over one-eighth acre each and located on the Alderson-Kunkle Road.

Though each parcel was valued at $15,000 by the reassessment, county officials said Thursday that the current fair market value is about $1,000 per parcel. Bids will start at $1,000 each.

The properties will be listed for 60 days before the bid due date.

Bids for the county’s southern annex on Broad Street in Hazleton started at $625,000, the appraised value of the property. The county had purchased the former bank building for $700,000.

“It’s still listed on the open market. We may end up auctioning that building off. We’re still tossing around ideas,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons said the county terminated a sales agreement with T&L Associates LLP to buy the former Springbrook building in Wilkes-Barre for $215,000 because the buyer kept asking for extensions.

The 11,048-square-foot building at 30 N. Franklin St. is back on the market through Mericle, and another party has expressed interest, Gibbons said.

Commissioners also voted Thursday to extend a sales agreement with AIV, LLC, of Wilkes-Barre, which wants to buy a vacant county-owned lot at 360 N. River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

County officials had agreed last month to sell the lot – the site of the former Klein Auto Parts Building – for $45,000. Gibbons said AIV needs more time to secure financing.

The county had purchased and demolished the Klein building for $55,000 several years ago to create a parking lot for the former juvenile detention center, which is no longer in use.

The county also has authority to unload hundreds of properties in the tax claim “repository,” which is a hodgepodge of land and buildings that didn’t sell in past back-tax sales, officials say.

The county tax claim office plans to hold a mass auction on July 29 to try to sell some of these properties to get them back on the tax rolls, according to a tax claim employee.

Some repository properties are considered undesirable because they didn’t get sold through three stages of tax sales. They include slivers of land that aren’t big enough to develop and roads or detention ponds in housing developments.

The county plans to sell the Valley Crest Nursing Home and/or the surrounding land in Plains Township, but a sale may not be executed until Valley Crest residents move into a new privately owned home that should be ready for occupancy in January or February.

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