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Ogdensburg’s Knox Street, Grove Street houses not sold yet

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When the Ogdensburg City Council approved the sale of two problem houses in March, it probably hoped it would be the last they heard of them.

Five months later the sales still haven’t been finalized.

The properties at 819 Knox St. and 2 Grove St. were again the topics of conversation at Monday night’s council meeting when Councilwoman Jennifer Stevenson asked about the status of their sale.

“I think this is taking longer than I would typically see,” she said. “The closing should be scheduled soon, on my time frame.”

Interim City Manager Philip A. Cosmo said there were delays in trying to sell both properties.

“On 2 Grove, we’ve hit a few snags and the property may have to go back through the lottery,” he said. “With 819 Knox, we’re ready to go.”

Ogdensburg is eager to sell the homes after both were involved in a prolonged debate surrounding the housing program that led to the resignation of City Planner J. Justin Woods and the firing of City Manager Arthur J. Sciorra.

“I thought we were finally done talking about 819 Knox St.,” said Councilman Wayne L. Ashley. “It is my understanding that these delays aren’t from the city’s end, we’re waiting on the property buyers to act.”

The property at 819 Knox St. was rehabilitated using almost $80,000 in federal and state housing grants. It is being sold to Barbara Seguin for $51,000.

It became embroiled in controversy last year after it was revealed that a family had been allowed to live there rent- and tax-free three years after the city foreclosed for back taxes. The occupants were not evicted because the property was entered in the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which renovated houses for low-income families using federal money.

When Ogdensburg’s council approved the program, it stipulated that each city-owned Neighborhood Stabilization property be entered into a lottery system to determine who gets the first opportunity to purchase it.

The city still waits for Ms. Seguin’s attorney to close on the sale, said Andrea L. Smith, interim director of planning and development.

The other house, at 2 Grove St., has had almost $105,000 of rehabilitation and demolition work. It was being sold to Barbara and Terry Thomas for $42,000.

It was also a Neighborhood Stabilization Property. Although it was unoccupied, Ogdensburg struggled to find a qualified family to buy the home.

That has again become the issue.

“The program requires us to make sure that there are employment verification and that the income levels are right for prospective buyers,” said Ms. Stevenson. “They have to make sure — because time limits have passed — that they are still eligible to purchase the home. Increased hours, new jobs, that could effect whether they are eligible to purchase a home or not.”

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program requires that families qualify on an income basis and be an appropriate size to occupy the property.

Ms. Smith was unavailable on Wednesday to say on which basis the Grove Street family had failed to qualify, but on Monday gave the potential buyers a deadline.

“They have between now and Sept. 7 to become eligible,” she said. “If they are not, we’ll have to find a new eligible applicant.”

Meanwhile, the city waits on the properties to sell to determine the future of its Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

At least one rehabilitation project in the program, 113 Adams Ave., remains to be completed, but the program doesn’t have enough funds to finish the work.

Questions also remain as to whether C. W. Augustine, the DeKalb Junction firm which until recently administered all of Ogdensburg’s housing programs, will be retained as the Neighborhood Stabilization Program’s administrator.

“When we sell the houses, at that point I think decisions will be made regarding that,” said Councilman Daniel E. Skamperle.

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