Pottsville vs. Schuylkill County in Fight Over GIANT Property
The fight over the former GIANT grocery store property entered another round this week.
Pottsville continues to berate Schuylkill County officials over their apparent insistence on purchasing the 2.1 acre lot in the city’s downtown area.
And it seems the County government just doesn’t care what Pottsville thinks.
Pottsville and Schuylkill County Spar Over GIANT Property
The City of Pottsville wants the former GIANT property to hit the open market. The hope is a private investor will come in and buy the property and keep it as a taxable entity. City officials say taxpayers can’t afford to lose a valuable taxable property. And putting the valuable property in the hands of County government would be counter to the City’s revitalization plans.
The County government doesn’t seem to give too much of a damn what Pottsville thinks. But why the County wants the property remains a mystery.
Depending on who you ask at the Courthouse, the former grocery store property could become a pre-release prison center. Or it could be used to expand County offices and give employees a chance to space out a little bit more.
No matter what their intention, they don’t really care what Pottsville wants.
This week, however, things came to a head again as the two sides sparred in public. Well, it was more like Pottsville delivered the punches while the County just propped itself up against the ropes and absorbed the hits.
Pottsville Approves Resolution Opposing County Purchase
The fight started on Monday.
At the regular City Council meeting, members unanimously approved a resolution to oppose the County’s potential purchase of the former GIANT property, according to the Republican Herald.
Council adopts resolution opposing county purchasing Giant property unanimous.
— Christine Lee (@Cleespot) August 10, 2020
The move is more symbolic than anything. A resolution like this can’t actually block the County from moving forward with its plan but it puts the City’s opinion on the matter on the record.
Previously, several City Council members and Mayor Jim Muldowney have voice their individual opposition to the proposed purchase, especially the idea of a possible pre-release prison on the site.
Schuylkill County Commissioners Read the Riot Act
The fight spilled over into Wednesday morning’s Schuylkill County Commissioners meeting.
Luckily, the shoddy Zoom connection the County hosted held up long enough for them to hear, loudly and clearly, the disapproval of the Commissioners intent on purchasing the former GIANT.
At that meeting, Savas Logothetides, who owns two businesses in Pottsville and serves on several boards with business interests. Notably, he’s the executive director of Pottsville Area Development Corp.
Logothetides spoke at a Commissioners meeting in late-July when news first broke of the County’s eyeing of the former grocery store possibly for a pre-release prison.
On Wednesday, he brought broader concerns in front of the Commissioners.
First, he commented on the apparent secrecy with which the County is using leading up to it potentially buying this property. He expressed bewilderment at how the County could attempt to hide details about an appraisal it had done on the property.
Schuylkill County Administrator Gary Bender refused to tell a local news source the cost of that appraisal – done using public money – and then saying the appraisal price for the property was “privileged” information. Concealing that price means the public likely won’t know what the County spends on the property if it does purchase it until the ink on the deal is dry.
“While potentially legal, the fact that the appraised value is not being made public is a disservice to the taxpayers,” Logothetides said Wednesday. “The lack of transparency is becoming increasingly troublesome with regard to both this significant business transaction but a number of other items within the Courthouse.”
County Neglecting the City?
Logothetides also accused County Commissioners and administration of neglecting Pottsville in its bloodthirsty pursuit of the former GIANT store and property.
“As you all are fully aware, Pottsville is in a time of progressive transition. It would be largely and negatively affected with this hasty and short-sighted decision,” he said. “In addition, you are now looking at hurting the CIty and its taxpayers.
“While I understand you have a duty to the entire county, it should not continually be at the expense of the City of Pottsville,” he added.
Logothetides also said, “There is private investment money interested in the property. Pottsville deserves better and I hope that you as elected officials will see through a short term solution for long term and progressive growth.”
Fight’s Not Over
Expect this verbal sparring to continue until a move is made by the County or Commissioners listen to reason and back off their intent on purchasing the property.
READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC:
- Source: Schuylkill County Eyes Former GIANT Supermarket in Pottsville for Prison Pre-Release Center
- 500+ Sign Petition to Stop County Purchase of GIANT Supermarket to Build Pre-Release Prison
- Argall Calls Pre-Release Prison at GIANT Site a “Major Setback” to Revitalization
- Pottsville Officials Clap Back at Schuylkill Commissioners Over Prison Plans
- Halcovage Suggests GIANT May Be Used for County Office Space Because of COVID-19
- Schuylkill County Employees On Top of Each Other? That’s What She Said
- Schuylkill County Administrator Says Appraisal Price on GIANT Property is “Privileged” Information