Middlebourne Town Council heard from a number of citizens on Monday evening concerning the sale of three city lots in Fair Addition on Westchester Avenue.
Local resident Virgil Canfield was the first to address Mayor Charlie DeLauder and the council. Canfield presented the mayor with a petition in protest of the sale of the three lots. He said every resident on the street had signed it. He then questioned the mayor about his knowledge of a large tree on the lots, asking whether it had been brought to his attention, that the tree posed a danger to a nearby home. Mayor DeLauder said until tonight no one has brought it to his attention. Canfield said he must have received some false information because a certain person had told him otherwise.
Canfield then questioned DeLauder on the bidding process of the three lots and his association with Community Resources, the highest bidder. He asked DeLauder if he worked for Community Resources. The mayor responded that he was employed as a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) inspector and had no affiliation with Community Resources. He said he did Section 8, housing inspections in Wetzel, Marshall, and Ohio counties, but not in Tyler. Canfield asked the mayor if he had called Community Resources to let them know the lots were for sale.
The mayor said about a year ago Community Resources had contacted him by phone inquiring if he knew of any property for sale in Middlebourne. He said he told them the town had three lots that were going to be sold at some point in time and he would let them know when they were to be sold. He said he did call them and tell them, as promised.
Resident Dale Koontz spoke up, saying he felt that was unfair. He said everyone else had to find out through the local paper and if you call one person and let them know, you should notify everyone else the same way. Koontz felt it put himself and everyone else at a disadvantage by then having to bid against a government agency. He mentioned he bid $7,600, but quit when Community Resources bid $7,800. City Attorney Gary Rymer said the sale had been brought up at previous council meetings and had been advertised in the local papers.
It was advertised in both the April 16 and 23 editions of the Tyler Star News, in the legal section, that Lots 75, 76, and 77 on Westchester Ave., in the Fair Addition, Middlebourne, would be sold to the highest bidder at the front door of the courthouse on April 30.
Rymer felt everyone had equal opportunity to know of the sale.
Several residents expressed concerns with the property being sold to Community Resources. One lady said, "We don't want them building here, that is a nice section of property and we want it to stay that way." Mayor DeLauder, said he had pictures of two homes Community Resources has already built in Middlebourne. Councilwoman Sue Pelikan said Community Resources is already here. She said they help people with utilities, clothing, and food assistance. "They do a lot of good," she said.
Mayor DeLauder recommended to council that they reject the winning bid from Community Resources because it was not a satisfactory offer for the lots. Councilwoman Vera Henthorn presented a letter from Community Resources which stated they were prepared to pay $12,000 per lot if necessary. Koontz than questioned what it would take to buy the lots. He wanted to know if the town would try and sell the lots to Community Resources for the $36,000. Mayor DeLauder said he felt $20,000 would be a fair price for the property. Council all seemed to agree.
Rymer explained to the group the legalities of how the town came to own the lots and the responsibilities they have to the town library. He said the library had inherited the lots but the matter ended up in Circuit Court and as a result the town owns the lots in trust for the library. All proceeds from the sale would have to go to the library and the town has a responsibility as trustee of the lots to get as much as they can to benefit the library. He said the bidding process was a solicitation of offers and if the council rejects the highest bidder, they can then sell the lots in a number of ways. Mayor DeLauder said if someone would offer $20,000, he would recommend to council to accept the offer.
Robert Carpenter Jr. asked the mayor if he wrote a check out for $20,000 would the town sell him the lots. "Yes," replied Mayor DeLauder. Carpenter told his wife to go get the check book. DeLauder said it would have to be an ordinance which would have to be read at three consecutive council meetings. Carpenter had the town recorder draw up a letter stating his agreement to pay $20,000 for the lots. Koontz then asked the mayor what would happen tomorrow when Community Resources calls to find out about their bid. He asked if they would tell them it had been sold for $20,000 or will you try and sell it to them for $36,000. Rymer again said the town has a responsibility to get the most they can for the library.
Resident Nancy Eckstrom said, "We don't want public housing units put on those lots. Councilwoman Henthorn said "as long as I have been in Middlebourne that area has been all residential and it is a quiet neighborhood and a safe one and I would like to see it stay that way." She spoke of her own neighborhood and how nice it used to be until a family moved in and destroyed it and a certain house, and never mowed or did anything around the house.
Councilman Dave Myers made a motion to move forward with an ordinance which would allow the sale of the lots to Robert Carpenter for $20,000. Doug Doak seconded the motion and it passed unanimously among all present.
Eckstrom, Canfield, Koontz, and Carpenter all questioned council and the mayor about the possibility of them selling to someone else at a higher price. They were told the town considered it a fair offer and would move forward with the sale to Carpenter.
Council then moved on to the second reading of a water rate ordinance. This ordinance is an increase of 15 percent which will take effect in September. Council voted to approve the reading of the ordinance.
The rate increase should translate into raising the average bill by about $4. With sewage, garbage, and any other charges, an average municipal bill would be about $92. Based on a 3,000 gallon minimum bill, the minimum water bill would increase from $22.46 to $25.82.
The measure requires three readings.
Mayor DeLauder asked council for permission to rent a street cleaning machine by the hour to clean the city streets. He said he thinks he can get one for $10 per hour and estimates it will take 60 hours to clean the streets. Council approved the mayor's request.
Council gave Mayor DeLauder permission to move forward on a request for a handicap parking spot near Boggs Pizza. Permission was given to paint the curb and erect a sign or paint the sign on the spot.
Councilman Doak brought to the mayor and council's attention the need for lighting at the park's ballfields. He said the ball teams have to go out of town for tournaments and with lighting they could host their own tournaments. He was told the park board would have to decide, but it would probably be a money issue.
Mayor DeLauder gave a report on the water and sewer. He said a new computer has been received and installed for billing operation. Also a new pump motor has been received for the water plant. He mentioned that sewer lines will need to be dug up and new ones installed in a couple of areas, and the water department needs a backup remote reader for water meters.
He said pot hole repair will be continuing on all streets. New decals have been ordered for the police cruiser and they are still waiting for radar to be installed in the cruiser. Traffic citations have arrived.
He also mentioned there is a crack in the city complex foundation that is now measures over and inch-and-a-half with no easy solution to repair it.
A complaint by council of people mowing their grass clippings into the street was brought to the mayor's attention. He was instructed by council to write letters to the offenders, stating there is an ordinance which prohibits this.