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Fort Drum Vehicle Storage warehouse, Morrison Street vacant lot will go up for auction

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City Comptroller James E. Mills should not be put in such an awkward situation again, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said Monday night.

At Monday’s Watertown City Council meeting, the mayor said he wants the city to establish a policy for when a potential buyer fails to show up to close on sale of a city-owned building, as happened with the former Fort Drum Vehicle Storage warehouse on West Main Street. It also happened recently with a vacant lot at 729 Morrison St.

In both situations, the properties were sold at an October public auction but the successful bidders failed to close on the sales. Recently, Ruby “Charlene” Williams bid $125,000 on the warehouse at 753 Rear W. Main St., but never appeared for the closing.

A similar situation occurred with the Morrison Street lot after James L. Desormeau submitted a successful $11,000 bid but held off finalizing the deal to see if he could get a special-use permit to store equipment for a paving company he operates out of his home at 739 Morrison St.

The two properties will become available again when another public auction is held next month.

On Monday night, Mr. Desormeau told council members that he purposely did not close on that property until he knew whether he would get the special-use permit, which was rejected last month by the city’s Planning Board following neighbors’ concerns about potential odor problems. The special-use permit also came before the council Monday night.

“Why buy a dead horse? What are you going to do with it afterward?” Mr. Desormeau said before the council also rejected his request.

The mayor contended that Mr. Mills was left waiting to see whether the two successful bidders would come through and end up buying the properties within the required 30-day period. He suggested Mr. Mills and City Manager Sharon A. Addison come up with a solution.

But City Attorney Robert J. Slye said he does not think it’s a good idea, adding that a potential buyer may have a legitimate reason for missing a closing, such as an illness. It also would be counterproductive in trying to maximize the amount of revenue generated by a property sale, he said.

“If the closing is 30 days, then it should be 30 days,” Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith said.

After debating the issue, council members decided to put both properties up for public auction again at 6 p.m. Jan. 8.

The city already has some interest in the West Main Street warehouse once used by Fort Drum Vehicle Storage company until it lost it in June for back taxes.

As a result of not closing their deals, Ms. Williams forfeited the $12,500 deposit she paid at the time of the Oct. 10 auction, while Mr. Desormeau lost his $1,100 deposit.

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