Shared from the 2017-06-28 Mon Valley Independent eEdition

Ex-Health Mart building sold for $1 this time

After On Site Rep. LLC failed to shell out $1,000 for the crumbling Donner Ave. site, the Monessen Redevelopment Authority agreed to take ownership.

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Mayor Lou Mavrakis speaks Tuesday at a Monessen City Council meeting as solicitor Gary Matta, left, looks on. Although Mavrakis lost in a race for the Democratic Party nomination in the primary, he hinted that he might somehow be a candidate in the fall.

Taylor Brown / Mon Valley Independent

A Pittsburgh based developer has backed out of the purchase of a controversial downtown Monessen building. On Tuesday, Monessen City Council approved another sale of the dilapidated former Health Mart building at 500 Donner Ave. – this time to the city redevelopment authority for $1.

On April 25, council approved a deal to sell the building to On Site Rep LLC, the lone bidder, for $1,000. As a condition of the sale, On Site Rep had to demolish the building within 60 days.

However, city Solicitor Gary Matta said On Site Rep owner David Lamb refused to follow through with the deal.

Mayor Mavrakis and councilmen Ron Chiaravalle and John Nestor voted to approve the redevelopment authority sale. Council members Patricia Bukowski and Edward Lea were absent.

Matta said council was not required to seek new bids because the authority is a government entity.

“The authority owns the remaining amount of properties in that area,” Matta said. “Council believes this is the right entity to own the property.” Mavrakis said the primary election might have affected Lamb’s decision to not complete the sale.

Mavrakis lost the Democratic Party nomination to Matt Shorraw, who wanted to transform the Health Mart building into a first-floor cafe, second-floor music center and a third-floor auditorium for recitals and event rentals.

The mayor contended the building amounted to blight and needed to be demolished.

“The election had consequences,” Mavrakis said. “… I lost the primary election, and the guy backed away,” Mavrakis said. “He doesn’t want to do business with us in the direction the city is going.”

Mavrakis said Lamb might change his mind.

“I’m not out of the picture yet,” the mayor said. “… If I run in November, I guarantee he comes back. I brought him to the table in the first place.”

At this point, Shorraw is unopposed on the general election ballot.

The property on 500 Donner Avenue would have been the second purchased in the city by Lamb.

In November, council received approval from Westmoreland County Judge Tony Marsili for the city to sell the Eastgate 11 building for $80,000 to Lamb.

“To my knowledge, that building is being handled in accordance with the original agreement,” Matta said.

Residents Linda Lacey and Adriana Ottaviani asked how the redevelopment authority will pay for demolition of the building.

After spending several years climbing out of debt and unable to undertake projects, the authority last month paid off a $175,000 judgment to Anthony Yerep.

He sued the authority after it could not come up with money it agreed to pay for property at 464 Knox Ave. and 504 to 512 Sixth St.

In March, the authority still owed Yerep approximately $72,000.

Mavrakis and the authority negotiated with Douglas Education Center CEO and President Jeff Imbrescia to pay $85,000 to close out the remainder of a $268,000 loan obtained 10 years ago by the Monessen-based school.

The deal saved Imbrescia 10 more years of payments to the authority.

Mavrakis said it was a “win-win for everyone,” as it enables the authority to develop and sell property.

As of this month, the authority has $12,000 in an account and will soon search for additional money to deal with more than 400 properties in its possession – including several in the 500 block of Donner Avenue.

Workers comp

Council agreed Tuesday to renew a State Workers Insurance Fund policy – a high-risk insurance program.

Chiaravalle said the workers compensation policy was dropped last year because of high costs associated with work-related injuries.

Chiaravalle said three claims filed in early 2016 totaled more than $620,000. The new policy will cost $251,000, about $100,000 more than the old policy. In 2016, council formed a committee to explore ways to improve worker safety. Chiaravalle said safety changes might lead to lower premiums in three to five years.

“Last year we had a good year,” he said. “ ... Everyone in the city needs to think safety.”

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