Schuylkill County had an appraisal completed on the property where the former GIANT grocery store sat in Pottsville more than a week ago.
But we’re not going to know how much that property is worth, per that appraisal. In a recent interview with the Times-News, Schuylkill County Administrator Gary Bender called that information “privileged” and didn’t disclose it.
In fact, he couldn’t even tell the reporter how much the appraisal cost, telling them it was about $1,500.
This lack of transparency from Schuylkill County officials might piss you off but it shouldn’t surprise you.
Schuylkill County Won’t Disclose Appraisal Price on GIANT Property
It’s hard to figure out why Bender won’t disclose the result of the appraisal. Calling it “privileged” as he did is short-sighted. And it just piles on the lack of transparency we’re seeing from county officials lately.
Presumably, the County wants to keep that price under wraps in case any other potential buyer wanted to swoop in and make an offer on it. That would-be buyer could see the appraised value of the property via media reports and make an offer. They wouldn’t have to get their own appraisal done, thus saving themselves a whopping $1,500 or so.
But if a buyer is ready to plunk down the money big enough to pay for the former GIANT building and the 2.1 acres it sits on, is $1,500 really that big of a deal? Since we don’t know what the appraised value of that lot is, we have to assume it’s in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps more.
If the County truly wanted to be transparent, they’d make it public how much the appraised value of that property is. And they’d also be up front about something as simple as the cost of the actual appraisal and who completed it. After all, that’s our money they’re spending. We, the public, have a right to know even that much up front.
Secrecy in County Property Purchases
Transparency, however, is not how Schuylkill County operates.
Take, for instance, the whole controversy over the GIANT property. We learned through a source that the County was even interested in this plot in the first place. The County still won’t even come forward and say for sure that it’s interested in buying it. And they’re all being coy about what the intended use of it is, IF they buy it.
Heck, the County won’t even tell Pottsville city officials what it plans to do with it.
Pottsville is trying to make another go at economic revitalization downtown and they learn, through a third party and the media, that the County wants to undermine that effort by purchasing a valuable piece of property and potentially putting a prison there.
Remember, a pre-release prison is now one option for this property, if the County gets it. Last week, we learned that instead of a prison, the County may be trying to get this property so its employees at the Courthouse can spread out and not be “on top of each other” as they currently work.
By hiding the appraisal price, Schuylkill County taxpayers are likely to only find out how much the County spends on this property – if they go ahead with the purchase – after the ink dries on the deal.
When the County recently purchased the Quirin foundry property along Route 61 South in Saint Clair, it paid $700,000 for the property, alone. And the cost to build a new STS depot there will allegedly cost at least $30 million. Again, this was all learned AFTER the deal to buy the property was completed.
Taxpayers are owed transparency, at the very least, from the County. We should know what the appraised value of the GIANT property is downtown. That way we can get an idea of what the County would spend to get it.
Lastly, Schuylkill County needs to stop taking valuable real estate off the market. If it purchases the GIANT property, it would have a major impact on the revenues of the County, the City of Pottsville, and the Pottsville Area School District. To make up for that shortfall, the buck (actually, many bucks) will undoubtedly get passed to the taxpayer. And frankly, they’ve had enough.