Boots Says He Was Afraid Pottsville GIANT Would Become “Another Housing Project”
During a puzzling 2-minute, 18-second set of remarks at the official announcement of Alvernia University’s Pottsville CollegeTowne project last week, Schuylkill County Commissioner Boots Hetherington said something rather … well, puzzling.
If you remember, last year, Boots’ administration led a full-on assault from the County Courthouse to purchase the former GIANT supermarket on Progress Avenue in Pottsville. By full-on assault, we mean they pursued it even before it was listed on the market.
The Commissioners even OK’d a plan to drive the County in debt to get its hands on this valuable property in downtown Pottsville, an area the city had marked for its next economic revitalization project. They told Administrator Gary Bender to work on their behalf to buy the property. And when you look at how the County spends money on property it wants to acquire, it was obvious the Commissioners were willing to overpay for the former GIANT.
Boots Worried GIANT Would Become Housing Project
The County’s plan for it still remains relatively unknown. Reliable sources to us said the County wanted to turn it into a pre-release prison. When that didn’t go over so well, the plan changed to more county offices and storage.
But last week, Boots told a different story about the County’s relationship with the former supermarket.
“We (the County Commissioners) actually looked at this property,” Boots said. “GIANT Food Stores owned it and they had some financial difficulty the last 7 or 8 years and decided to walk away from it and nobody else seemed interested in it, no other grocery chains, no other businesses,” Boots said Thursday.
Honestly, we have no idea how Boots would know that GIANT was struggling at that Pottsville location for as long as he claims. Why would a self-proclaimed “farmer from the northwestern part of the county” know about the financial status of an inner-city grocery store in Pottsville?
Boots has only been County Commissioner since 2020 following the death of Frank Staudenmeier. And he’d only been in office about 4 months when GIANT announced it was closing.
We also have no idea why our county government is prospecting properties that aren’t even on the market.
Secondly, for Boots to claim that “nobody else seemed interested in it” is absurdly false. As we stated, the County didn’t wait a second before expressing interest in buying the property. The Commissioners, in fact, ignored pleas from practically everyone to stand down in its dogged pursuit of the property.
Pottsville city officials begged the Commissioners to give them time to find a proper suitor for the vacant property. State Sen. Dave Argall (R-29) even got legislation passed that would have prevented the County from purchasing it because it was in an economic revitalization zone declared by Pottsville.
Then, Boots expressed a thought he hadn’t in public before Thursday. He said …
“I talked to some city founders and some leaders (he specifically mentioned PADCO Executive Director Savas Logothetides and former State Rep. Mike Tobash) and I said, ‘You know what, my biggest fear is it might end up being a housing project’.”
Honestly, that’s a legit concern. But Boots never mentioned that in public last year. Why? If you were concerned about that, say something.
And if that was a concern, it’s no reason for the government to further intervene and potentially prevent a business from buying a commercial property.
For economic revitalization to truly happen in Pottsville and the rest of Schuylkill County, the government needs to get out of the real estate game entirely.
Photo: Coal Region Canary
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