Sides haggle over sale of Fox Field property

Sides haggle over sale of Fox Field property

Catanzaro and Lombardi disagree on how to pay

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Creditors charged with finding a buyer for the former failed supermarket site in the center of town are balking at the latest offer for the property from town officials.

Reports from internal meetings are that town officials have offered $1.3 million for the property across Mineral Spring Avenue from North Providence High School, but still want the owners of the property to pay off about $130,000 in fees and back taxes.

Further complicating negotiations, the creditors want the town to pay for the fill on the property, dirt that is worth an estimated $80,000.

Mayor Charles Lombardi and Council President Kristen Catanzaro continue to disagree on how the town should pay for the property if the sides do reach an agreement, with Lombardi saying the money should come out of the police department's Google fund, at "no cost to the taxpayer," and Catanzaro saying it should come out of last year's town surplus, which is projected at just over $1 million.

Catanzaro called the matter of whether to use money from a 2012 settlement with Google a "separate issue" from that of buying the property. Google money could only be used if a central public safety complex was in the works for the property, "and that hasn't been brought before the council or any public hearings yet," she said.

Both sides are expected to meet again soon as they continue to try to hammer out a deal. Catanzaro wouldn't comment on the progress of continued negotiations after the council sealed the minutes of closed-door sessions.

The receiver in charge of finding a buyer for the property, Mark Russo, said back in May that he had received an offer for $1.5 million for the five-acre property off Plympton Street and Mineral Spring Avenue for a planned International Fitness Center. Catanzaro wouldn't comment this week on whether she still favors having a business built on the property instead of a public safety complex.

The priority is to sell the property to the town, according to Russo.

The Plympton Street land is where a supermarket was once planned until an FBI investigation revealed that three former members of the council, Raymond Douglas III, Joseph Burchfield and John Zambarano, solicited and received bribes to rezone the land.

Lombardi said this week that he's concerned about losing the property if the council can't reach an agreement with the receiver soon.

"I think the town needs to do whatever they can to secure and own this property," he said.

By buying the property for a police and fire complex on the Fox Field site, said Lombardi, the town would then free up other buildings to be sold for private development.

Lombardi said he's staunchly opposed to using surplus funds instead of Google cash for the property. The surplus is not really a surplus until after the town pays off its required deficit reduction bond next year, he said. The town has another $2.2 million payment still to make on that bond this year and a final $1.1 million payment to make next July.

After that final payment, if the council "doesn't get stupid" and take money budgeted for deficit reduction bond payments out of the budget, the town will have money to give residents breaks on car taxes and new roads, said Lombardi.

Using Google funds for the Plympton Street property would limit the town's options for what to do with the property, said Lombardi, and that's fine with him. Due to a lack of funding for school construction projects statewide, using it for a central middle school is now just a remote possibility.

Offers for the Plympton Street property have been scarce since Fox Field LLC and Kevin O'Sullivan went into bankruptcy-like receivership back in 2011. Russo said in May that he thinks the town would be the "perfect buyer" for the property, and the chance to buy it represents an "outstanding opportunity" for the town.

Comments

1. If the property can be sold to a private business, great, we get tax revenue.
2. The town should take the land for back taxes.
3. Is the land free and clear including environmental approval for no contaminates?
4. Calling out the council, if the council "doesn't get stupid" is interesting considering NP went into Deficit Reduction Bonding on Charlie's watch and if you go back and look at the records Charlie was very much one of the people that put us into financial crisis.
5. Finally, the Google money has made this town into a continuing joke as to how to handle money or not handle money. There are no time limits so no rush to expand any police facilities, equipment or personal. The money can only be used for police matters and if thought out intelligently this could be a long term benefit but not if it's spent.

As I sit here and read the stupid comments Mayor Lombardi makes in an interview with the Breeze I am not amazed at him not being a statesman. I just received my tax bill with a $800 tax increase. I say no to any Public Safety Complex. Wether its built with Google money or not. First of all the Mayor doesn't have a surplus thats all smoke and mirrors. If he did your taxes would not have been raised. I understand there is a reevaluation of property but in the tax rate increase the town will be receiving more money. I thought we had a 2 million dollar surplus and 30 less positions in town. Yeah that surplus is on the back of the tax payer. Since Charlie has been Mayor my taxes have gone up $1535.00. This is the same person that brags he has surpluses and states his administration is fiscally vigilant. The town is A bond rated according to Janney Montgomery Scott. This was all accomplished on your backs. The tax payer. Who cares about the Insurance Oraganization awarding the town a tier 1 class rating. Do you know what that means ? If you pay $1000. a year for home owners insurance you may get a 10% discount. Wow a whole $10. savings. It cost me the taxpayer $1535.00 since Lombardi has been Mayor to save $10. Thanks. The Mayor continues to claim he is for the taxpayer if so the Fox Field property should be sold for commercial property to generate tax revenue for the town.