In today's Observer Dispatch, regarding the purchase price of 29 Oxford Road, we are told:
Ashford-Clinton plans to sell it to the district for $187,160, Romano said.How benevolent of them...but that is NOT what the Option to Purchase says.
Never mind the fact that under Education Law the school cannot sign a Option to Purchase; here is what the signed Option to Purchase says:
3. Purchase price. The total purchase price for the land described in Schedule "A" shall be determined at the time of closing as follows:So, it would appear that we need to see Schedule "B" to figure out how much the school has already paid Ashford-Clinton Corp.; however, the school failed to include that document as part of the Option document that was posted online.
(a) Purchase Price shall equal the outstanding principal balance of the indebtedness (i.e. $192,594 amortized over 15 years at seven percent) at the time the option is exercised but in no event less than the amount owing as of the date of closing.
(b) Purchaser shall pay incidental costs for recording fees, carrying costs and necessary expenses incurred by seller during the term of the lease which have not otherwise been previously reimbursed.
The total purchase price, as shown above, shall be paid to Optionor in cash at the time of closing. In addition to the purchase price set forth above, Optionee shall pay Optionor's accrued interest in the amount of $336.85 per month from lease inception through closing (this is in lieu of and not in addition to a termination fee). Optionee shall receive credit against the purchase price for the amounts paid for this option and the principal pay down of Optionor's indebtedness (see Schedule "B"). Notwithstanding the foregoing, Optionee shall also pay Optionor in addition to the option price set forth above, its reasonable costs, disbursement expenses and attorneys fees associated with the underlying acquisition costs of the realty, exercise of the option, and sale of the realty (unless otherwise compensated) all of which shall be documented. [emphasis added by blogger]
One other point regarding the above part of the Option to Purchase agreement, just what does (i.e. $192,594 amortized over 15 years at seven percent) mean? Sounds like language in a mortgage. Here is what amortization is according to The Free Dictionary:
Amortization. Amortization is the gradual repayment of a debt over a period of time, such as monthly payments on a mortgage loan or credit card balance.Why wasn't Schedule "B" made available to taxpayers? Might we find the "true" price being paid for 29 Oxford Road?
To amortize a loan, your payments must be large enough to pay not only the interest that has accrued but also to reduce the principal you owe. The word amortize itself tells the story, since it means "to bring to death."
According to Superintendent Nole and School Attorney Anthony Hallak, they have only dealt with Russ Petralia, but Ms. Romano seems to be the one with all of the answers regarding these properties. We didn't find one quote or piece of information in the Observer Dispatch article that was from Russ Petralia.
We're also wondering...did they include repaying Autumn Enterprises for the cost of the handicapped porch that was added to 29 Oxford Road just a couple of months before it was made public that the school board agreed to lease the property to house the business office?
According to the minutes of the August 8, 2005 Village of New Hartford Trustee Meeting:
Jennifer Rust, 29 Oxford Road, handicapped ramp application. Upon recommendation by the Planning Board, the Village Board approved making 29 Oxford Road handicapped accessible. Zoning Officer Martin addressed the parking lot issue by stating that the number of parking spaces needs to be based on the square footage of usable office space, not including storage, therefore making 29 Oxford Road's seven parking spaces in compliance with the codes.According to the Dept of State website, Autumn Enterprises is owned by the Rusts; they were the owner of 29 Oxford Road previous to Ashford-Clinton Corp.
According to NHCS Board Meeting Minutes, the school board agreed to lease 29 Oxford Road at the November 1, 2005 school board meeting.
Coincidence...two months after Ms. Rust applies for a building permit we learn that the school is going to lease the property? The school, as a government entity, has to make sure that their buildings are handicapped accessible; particularly if they are doing any remodeling.
Is it a coincidence that according to that a November 2, 2005 Observer Dispatch article, the school could have paid Autumn Enterprises $160,000 to purchase the property if done by October 30, 2010; yet Ashford Clinton paid about $193,000 for the same property in December 2010?
Did Ashford-Clinton Corp., and is the school now, indirectly paying for improvements to these properties; improvements that would have taken voter approval if the school were to undertake them?
We have also heard from school administrators that 29 Oxford Road is crowded because there are 9 people working there? Is that a subtle message that more bonding will be put on the table shortly?
Will the school be less "landlocked" if these two properties are purchased? At what point will New Hartford Central School officials be satisfied with their acquisitions?
It's troubling that there are so many versions of the details regarding these properties being put out by the school district and Ms. Romano; yet FOILed documents seem to contradict everything taxpayers are being told.
It is interesting to note that Edmund J. Wiatr, Jr. FOILed the Option to Purchase agreement along with other documents regarding the properties. In response he was told by Attorney Anthony Hallak that he could get them on the school's website. [See letter from Attorney Hallak here.] We have been told that Mr. Wiatr has since received yet another letter from Attorney Hallak.
The school actually retained School Attorney Hallak of the Felt Evans law firm to respond to Mr. Wiatr's FOIL requests even though Records Access Officer, Aurelia Greico, had already responded.
Why is it necessary for the school attorney to get involved in releasing documents that should have willingly been released to the taxpayers of New Hartford Central to justify the purchase of the properties on the May 15th ballot?
Responding to FOIL requests, except in extreme cases, need only be handled by the school record access officer. Taxpayers should ask how much money Attorney Hallak has received to delay FOILed documents that should be readily available to the public!
The FOI Law does not require a person to go to a website to retrieve the FOILed documents. FOIL requests are supposed to be supplied to the person who requests them either electronically or in paper format, according to the particulars of the request.
We have blogged about Attorney Hallak and his lack of understanding of [or should we say his disregard for] the Freedom of Information Law many times. It should be troubling to New Hartford Central School taxpayers that school administrators feel it necessary to hire an attorney to respond to simple requests for information.
However, as long as taxpayers are willing to put up with this, it will continue.