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Springville village board revisits distressed property management issue

SPRINGVILLE — The village of Springville Board of Trustees discussed distressed properties and their effect on the village’s bottom line, during its Nov. 4 meeting. Prior to the meeting, the board conducted a work session to discuss Erie County charge-backs and the management of tax liens against those properties and how the village can work with the county to reconcile them.

Village Administrator Tim Horner reported that there is currently $81,805.81 in unpaid property taxes for 73 properties, and that the amount would be re-levied to Erie County, assuming the owners do not pay.

That action is in accordance with the tax act of 1942, according to Mayor William Krebs. Under that requirement, the village re-levies unpaid property taxes to the county, which will then receive and own those tax liens.

“This goes on every year,” Krebs said. “There’s got to be a better way of functioning.”

Horner further reported that the 2013-2014 budget needed to be adjusted, according to appropriations passed in April. The revenue stream was adjusted by $144,269, to make up for $122,514 in costs to demolish the Springville Hotel. That amount will be re-levied to the hotel’s property owner.

“It’ll be added to his tax bill and, if it’s not paid, it’ll be re-levied to Erie County,” Horner said.

Additionally, there were two properties that were sold whose revenue was not sufficient to cover a total $21,755 in tax liens. That figure is the village’s share of those liens, which also contributes to that adjustment.

Krebs reported that he hoped a grant would cover part of the demolition costs, and that Erie County is working to get approval from the Housing and Urban Development organization for that.

“A distressed property is a cost, no matter who pays it,” he said. “It’s just part of the cost that Springville faces, in its distressed properties.”

Trustee Nils Wikman said that he thought the time had come to discuss how to handle distressed properties “more expeditiously.

“These [properties] need to be back on the tax rolls and made affordable, so people can start paying taxes on them again,” he added.

The board also passed a resolution to formally submit two properties for consideration to be included in the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation land bank. Those properties must have tax liens, in order to be included, and the proposal the village sent included those liens, as well as technical information on the properties.

“The land bank is one tool we have to address distressed properties,” Krebs said. “We intend to use these resources to maintain inventory, manage tax liens of these properties and update the building code of those properties.” Submitting those properties for consideration is the first round of several, for consideration next year.

In the village, there are 41 parcels with three or more years of back taxes. The properties submitted for approval were 53 West Main St., 134 Waverly St. and 311 West Main St.

The board also heard from Erie County Legislator John Mills, who visited Springville to inform the residents about a variety of programs that are available, in the county.

“It’s good to be back in Springville,” Mills said. “I consider Springville critical mass for the Southern Tier. You do great things here.”

He said that his office is particularly interested in helping senior citizens or any residents who need information about social services, in Erie County.

“Erie County has about a gazillion numbers,” he said. “One of the best places to go is my office. My girl knows where every skeleton is, in every closet in Erie County government.”

To avoid “getting lost in the many layers of bureaucracy,” Mills recommended that residents call his office for help.

He also left literature about the Yellow Dot Program, Erie Community College and social services with the town clerk, for residents’ perusal.

“We’re right in the middle of the 2014 county budget,” Mills said, adding that the county executive has pledged to keep taxes level, for the second year.

“He’s decided to kick the can down the road,” Mills noted, adding that the budget proposes that $8 million of a $40 million pension payment due in 2014 be deferred.

“We think we can pay it in the year it’s due,” Mills said. In addition to that payment, Mills said he wanted to see funding “shifted around” from larger cultural organizations, such as the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, to smaller cultural organizations, roads and infrastructure and other organizations that need the money.

“Stay tuned,” Mills said. “This should be an interesting budget.”

He also pledged to arrange a meeting to discuss the tax act of 1942, which he agreed needs to be revisited and said he would set up that meeting “once the dust settles from elections.”

Finally, Mills reported that “Byway Bob” Lennartz, chairman of the Western New York Southtowns Scenic Byway, said that Ellicottville wants to join the byway.

“This is a good thing for Springville, a good thing for Concord, for the whole Southtowns,” Mills said. “The world is going to discover that there’s something south of West Seneca.”

Krebs agreed that, for Springville, extending the byway is “a no-brainer.

“Our connection to Ellicottville is very important. Of the 5 million people who make trips to Ellicottville, 60 percent come through Springville. That’s a large number of visitors, and we should try to promote that. We’re under-promoted as a beautiful place to live and a beautiful place to visit.”

In other board matters:

– A transitory car sale that had taken place in the village was written up, the accusatories went to the court and the company and host will both be receiving summons in the mail, according to Code Enforcement Officer Mike Kaleta.

“This is something we need to start addressing,” added Wikman. “The last sale was held without any regard for any kind of code or moratorium, and I think it’s time we stopped this.”

– The board voted to allow the American Legion to keep its sign, which a member addressed, at a previous meeting.

“The sign’s been up and we’re working on signs for a gateway sign, so there might be signage [that needs to use that spot]. So, my feeling is, the sign stays up until we finish that. It is a directional sign, as far as I’m concerned,” he added. “The state said it was OK; it’s not like they snuck it up in the middle of the night.”

Kaleta said that he would inform the American Legion.

“I’ll tell them they can go ahead and paint it, make it look pretty again, since it’ll be there for awhile,” he said.

– A sewer forgiveness request from the Jermain residence was approved.

– The control center renovation is almost completed, and will have equipment installed this week.

“The county is supposed to come and put the desk together,” Kaleta said. “There aren’t any directions for it, so good luck with that.”

Krebs commended the committee that had worked on the control center upgrade on the new, “state-of-the-art” facility.

“It’s really an improvement and an update to the services we’re able to provide,” he said.

– The board declared Nov. 7-13 Billy Graham Week in Springville, in recognition of the speaker’s birthday.

The next Springville Village Board of Trustees meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Nov. 18 at the municipal building on Franklin Street.


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