Schuylkill County has denied a Right to Know request seeking the appraisal value of the recently vacated GIANT grocery store property in downtown Pottsville.
The RTK request was filed by Pottsville Area Development Corp. executive director Savas Logothetides earlier this week.
At Wednesday’s Schuylkill County Commissioners meeting, Logothetides berated officials for hiding the appraisal cost and value, arguing that they used taxpayer funds to have it done and the public should have a right to know its results.
He promised to file that RTK and did so soon after that meeting. The County responded within a day, partially granting his RTK request but denying the meat of it.
Schuylkill County Denies Right to Know Request on GIANT Appraisal
The one part of Logothetides RTK request the County did approve was disclosing the cost of the appraisal. The County spent $1,500 with Gownley Appraisal Group to determine the value of the parcel located at 500 Progress Ave. in Pottsville.
That’s where the GIANT grocery store operated for 37 years until it closed for good in July.
Since the store closed, the County’s been actively seeking to purchase the property. And the appraisal is just the first leg of that possible acquisition.
Potential uses of the property include either a pre-release prison center or extra office space for County employees. The County argues there’s not enough room for its employees to properly keep a social distance amid the coronavirus pandemic and the GIANT property would make an ideal place to expand.
Logothetides is one of several City officials who’ve argued that the County buying the property is a bad move. In fact, on Monday, Pottsville City Council passed a resolution formally opposing the County’s potential acquisition of the property. It hopes to find private investors who will transform the property into another business to keep it on the tax roll and contribute to the city’s active economic revitalization effort.
County Mum on Appraised Value of GIANT Property
Schuylkill County entered into a contract with Gownley back on June 24 to have the GIANT property appraised. That happened just 12 days after The Canary broke the story about the GIANT announcing it was closing its doors for good at that location.
While we know what it cost to have that appraisal completed, thanks to Logothetides’ RTK request filed this week, it’s keeping the appraised value of the property close the vest.
The County says that request is denied because that information is exempt from RTK law, which excludes “contents of real estate appraisals, engineering or feasibility estimates, environmental reviews, audits, or evaluations made for or by an agency relative to the the leasing, acquiring, or disposing of real property or an interest in real property,” according to a letter from the County Solicitor’s office.
“They are thumbing their nose at the City and it’s borderline unbecoming. This is NOT how we should be represented,” Logothetides said in a social media post announcing the denial.
Schuylkill County officials have not spoken openly about their interest in the GIANT property and it’s likely the public will only know about its purchase after a deal is completed to buy it.
The RTK denial can be appealed through the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records within 15 days.