MOUNT CARMEL — Late last month the Board of Mayor and Aldermen tabled a proposal to sell one of two houses it purchased in 2017 beside the City Park until a long term plan is developed for the park.
Alderman Eugene Christian made a motion at the BMA’s June 28 meeting to declare the house at 210 Maple St. surplus.
Christian recommended subdividing the vacant land off the back of the property, leaving only the minimum size lot for a house allowed by law, and then put the house up for sale.
That’s the brick house which serves as the office of Building Inspector Vince Pishner.
The yellow house next door was part of the purchase last year, but won’t belong to the city until its owner passes away, at which time it will be sold for $1, although the vacant land behind it is available for the city to use.
There was also lengthy discussion about building a community center on that vacant property adjacent to the tennis courts; however, the first cost estimate was $1.2 million, and the project was shelved.
Both properties include a house facing Maple Street, but they also have large backyards, including a combined 1.78 acres.
“When I made the motion to buy this property, the idea was to get the land for the park,” Christian told the board Thursday. “Not to keep the house. Right after we bought the property, I made the request (to sell the houses), and I was told no, the comptroller would frown on that. Later, I called the comptroller and told them what the situation was, and (a representative from the comptroller’s office) said cities and counties do this all the time — declare it surplus and sell it.”
He added, “That’s what I want to do because later the house is going to be an expense for maintenance and upkeep that we don’t need. ... We can sell the house, put the money in the bank, and keep the (vacant) property.”
City Manager Mike Housewright noted that if at some point in the future the vacant land is developed into a community center, the property where the houses are located would be the only direct public access to that facility.
In fact, there’s an abandoned right-of-way located between the two houses leading into the park, and that right-of-way can’t be preserved while also allowing property line setbacks required by city code.
Aside from serving as the building inspector’s office, the house is also being utilized to store maps for the Sewer Department and materials from City Hall, the library and the Senior Center. The garage is being used by Public Works.
“The taxes that would come in from that are minimal, and they’re not going to solve our problems,” Housewright said. “Likewise, the cost associated with (maintenance) is relatively minimal compared to our overall expenses. If we break off the land from the house, that is going to land-lock that backside of the park. That’s going to make access to any community center we build there a little bit more challenging.”
He added, “The properties have been purchased. The money’s out. The town is not broke. The amount of money we have is not in question. The problem resides in our revenues versus our expenditures. To sell this off for $100,000 doesn’t solve our budget problems, but it does close the door if the town should decide to grow the park.”
Christian agreed to withdraw his motion after Mayor Chris Jones asked that the decision be postponed until the BMA has a workshop to discuss its overall strategic plan.
If the house were sold, there would also need to be planning to relocate Pishner’s office and the items stored there.