FORT EDWARD — The former General Electric Co. dewatering site in Fort Edward was donated to a relatively obscure local development corporation with three known members in December by WCC, a D.A. Collins real estate holding company based in Ballston Spa, according to the company’s attorney.
“I represent Fort Edward Development LLC,” said attorney Michael O’Connor during a Washington County Board of Supervisors Finance Committee on Thursday. “They no longer own the property, nor does WCC LLC. They have, at the end of the year, donated to FT Edward Local Property Development Corp. The donation was made without condition, without stipulation, and it’s their property at this time.”
WCC, represented by O’Connor, is currently in negotiations with Fort Edward town, village and school district regarding an egregious tax assessment challenge related to the donated property.
At Thursday’s Finance Committee meeting, supervisors discussed whether to take the two donated parcels off the tax rolls to allow the county treasurer to collect from the village and school district nearly $6 million in WCC’s unpaid taxes on the property.
During the discussion, O’Connor said WCC, while no longer owning the property, was still interested in helping.
“We think that we can help the county, the town, the school district, the village and everybody recoup money that was not put on the table. We are prepared to write a check for the amount we have been told would make the county whole,” said O’Connor, referring to the current negotiations tied to pending litigation. “In addition to that, but not as a condition, we are prepared to enter into a management agreement where we will front the money for the development and sale or rental of that property.
“As part of that, we will also put up a bond for the replacement of the bridge if and when it is necessary. And we will take care of the taxes during the interim from the date of the agreement forward,” O’Connor continued. “I think I have been told the 2019 taxes are $386,000 ... we’re prepared to put the money up front.”
Additionally, O’Connor said if they are successful in developing the property and are reimbursed the upfront money, they would share monies in a 50/50 split with the “nonprofit” FT Edward LPDC.
Several supervisors said this was the first they had heard of this offer and began asking about the unknown LPDC formed on Dec. 21.
An ongoing search for documents — articles of incorporation, DBA filing, state listing of LDCs, local corporations, non-profit filings — in state and county records over the past several weeks has repeatedly turned up “no documents available” for the FT Edward LPDC as of March 5.
On Saturday, the listing for the corporation as an active not-for-profit domestic corporation was listed on the state corporation online site with the Fort Edward town and village offices 118 Broadway address, but the names or other information about the LPDC was not available.
Last month, after the February Washington County Board of Supervisors meeting, The Post-Star asked Fort Edward Supervisor Terry Middleton about the LPDC membership. Middleton said he knew little about it and only knew that Fort Edward Town Board member Neal Orsini was a member.
The Dec. 28 deed transferring ownership from WCC to the LPDC lists the Fort Edward town and village offices — 118 Broadway, Fort Edward — as the group’s address as does the state's corporation document.
Still, when asked, Middleton said that the address was a mistake on the paperwork and the LPDC was not part of the town or village offices.
After O’Connor spoke at Thursday’s Finance Committee meeting, Middleton asked to speak.
“Just so everyone knows, the newly created LDC (LPDC), I want full disclosure,” Middleton said. “My son sits on that, just so everyone knows. That’s all I have to say.”
“Who else?” Several supervisors chimed in.
“Other members?” Middleton paused. “Neal Orsini ... Jamie Sipowicz.”
Granville Supervisor Matt Hicks responded.
“I hope the answers can be taken care of about the structure of this LPDC. Who’s in charge? Who’s the authority? Who appointed the members? What are their articles of incorporation? Where are the minutes?” Hicks asked. “I hope that all gets brought out at some point, because if it’s a public corporation, I’d like to think that the public could find out what is going on with it, because it seems to be a secret.”
Regarding WCC’s offer, O’Connor said they are willing to put money on the table, but they need to get a resolution with the town on the assessment issue.
“We are prepared to write a check before the end of the month and we would pay the next year’s taxes as they come due,” he said.
Middleton did not refer directly to O’Connor’s offer and instead spoke generically about a possible settlement on the table.
“It’s a fair offer,” he said.
Fort Edward Union Free School District Superintendent Dan Ward said he was not aware of the offer.
“I haven’t received anything in writing that I can take to my board or our attorney to take a real good look at,” Ward said. “That being said, my board does want to enter into a settlement as long as it makes sense to the school district.”
Fort Edward Village Mayor Matt Traver said they had not received anything in writing from Middleton as of Thursday.
At this point in the meeting, several supervisors said if and when there is a settlement, they may change their path. But in the absence of a settlement, the Finance Committee voted to remove the parcels from the tax rolls to allow the county to charge back the delinquent taxes to the village and school district.
The full board will vote on the resolution at the March 15 board meeting.
“It’s like buying a piece of property from somebody,” said Hicks. “Until you get a closing date, a signature and a certified check, there is no settlement. So for what we are doing right now, there is no settlement. Now by next Friday, if that changes, that changes what we do.”
Kathleen Phalen-Tomaselli covers Washington County government and other county news and events.