Just two years ago, Fort Drum Vehicle Storage was doing such a brisk business it was nominated by the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce for a Business of the Year award.
And now the company that was formed to serve deploying soldiers who needed a safe place to store their vehicles is about to lose the 26,281-square-foot warehouse at 753 W. Main St. to the city for $16,117.95 in unpaid taxes.
The Watertown City Council learned Monday that the city will be taking ownership of the warehouse, a former tattoo shop at 606 Factory St. and eight houses because the two-year tax redemption period ended June 25. Owners had until then to pay the back taxes or the city would file the deeds and take title to them. That procedure is expected to be completed Friday.
Were working through this procedure, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said.
But the owners of Fort Drum Vehicle Storage already are trying to get back their warehouse, making a request to city officials that they want to purchase it from the city. It will be up to the City Council to decide whether that property and the other nine will go up for auction next fall or be sold through private sales.
When he heard about the situation, Mr. Graham headed over to Fort Drum Vehicle Storage, where he found a door ajar and saw at least one vehicle being stored inside. He surmised there could be others, noting that soldiers serving in Afghanistan would have no idea whats going on with the warehouse and their vehicles.
While they do not know how many vehicles are still in the warehouse, city officials insisted that they will not keep them and that they want to return them to their rightful owners.
After the June 25 deadline passed, a company representative telephoned City Comptroller James E. Mills to see what, if anything, could be done about getting the building back, but Mr. Mills said it was too late. Since then, the businesss attorney, Steven G. Munson, has contacted the city about purchasing the warehouse back. He was on vacation and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
But Mr. Graham said there are other financial problems with Fort Drum Vehicle Storage. The owners also are behind on $40,000 loans from the Watertown Local Development Corp. and the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency. The Watertown Trust loan is in collection, he said. In recent months, the Watertown Trust has been unable to reach owner JoAnn A. Sanchez about the delinquent loan.
Meanwhile, John D. Blacke aka Dr. Strange said hes not so sure he wants to get his former tattoo parlor and now junk shop at 606 Factory St. back from the city. It would cost about $250,000 to get the commercial property up to code, he said.
He owed $7,372.01 in unpaid taxes for the property, which was condemned earlier this year because it did not have city water service. He also will lose his home at 660 Huntington St. for the $3,537.98 in back taxes on it.
Contacted at his home, Mr. Blacke said his mortgage company, Beneficial Home Owners, should have paid taxes on the commercial property for him. He did not know why that did not happen.
The city has started trying to find out how many tenants live at that property and the eight houses. The tenants will have 30 days to vacate the properties, Mr. Mills said.
Well work with the tenants, but they will have to leave, he said.
Joshua M. Ebdon moved into one of the five units in the Factory Street building with his girlfriend and 4-month-old baby just a few months ago.
Wow, he said after hearing about his predicament. Its going to suck if I have to move out.