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CNB Archives : Wake Up People; The Chatham Square 'Boondoggle'

posted Sunday, August 28, 2011 6a00d8341bf7d953ef01b7c78436c8970b-320wi

CNBNEWS POINT OF VIEW: 

 

WAKE UP PEOPLE! A number of local governments are still not using the world wide web properly. They haven’t a clue it seems on what is available for their use to alert residents of important happenings or disasters. The emergencies this past week (earthquake, hurricane) highlight why they need such a system in place. 

A good program for this purpose that some communities use is offered through a company named Nixle.com.

From Nixle’s website, “Nixle is a Community Information Service dedicated to helping you stay connected to the information that matters most to you, depending on your physical location. You stay connected to your local police department, your children’s schools, your local community agencies and organizations, and the important information from other locations throughout the country that are relevant to you. Our service is built on the most secure, reliable, and high-speed distribution platform, ensuring that you receive trusted and immediate, geographically relevant information. Information is immediately available over your cell phone by text message, by email, and over the web. Your account can be customized so you receive the information that matters most to you.”

 Those towns that we know of that use Nixle are: Audubon, Bellmawr, Gloucester Township and Mount Ephraim.  The company offers a free service along with a paid premium program. If your community is not using this system or one similar ask your elected reps why not? Tell them it is time for your (our) community to become part of the 21st Century. 

 THE CHATHAM SQUARE ‘BOONDOGGLE’-Labbree Realty recently was named the rental agent for the Chatham Square ‘Boondoggle’ owned by the taxpayers of Gloucester City. Labbree was appointed by resolution passed by Mayor and Council at the August 26 council meeting. There are 16 apartments that are still being rented, the others are either empty or have been converted into one of 8 townhouses that are for sale. The City purchased the 100 apartments in 2007 for $4.3 million and hired a developer, Orens Brothers to renovate the dilapidated apartments into townhouses. Orens Brothers received a $1.1 million UDAG loan from the City for that purpose. So far not one of the 8 partially finished townhouses have been sold. Only the outside facade has been refurbished; and a small outside deck has been built on the back of the 8 properties. They are priced between $167,000 and $195,000. Orens was hired over a year ago, in June 2010. 

For their services, Labbree, according to the resolution, will receive the following fees: a) one half month’s rent; b)1-5 units-6% of monthly rent; 6-10 units-; 5.5% of monthly rent; 11 or more units-5% of monthly rent; c) $100 per occurrence. Previously the City was handling the rental of the properties. The rent ranges from $595 to $869, according to a notice on the City’s website.

 

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Comments

1

Good ole boy said...

Re: Chatham Square

Gloucester City should not be in the housing business.

Our Council and advisors have no business sense and they keep demonstrating it.

They need to try focusing on getting the most for the money we pay in taxes.

Fix the streets and buildings. Dispose of any assets that can't pay for its own existence.

I can think of a few real quick;

The marina,

The sail boat,

Rental houses,

What else should be added to this list?

 

Reply

Sunday, August 28, 2011 at 10:59 PM

 

2

another fine job said...

what a mess this is turning out to be.

a lot of wasted money to please a few.

all to be rentals.

 

Reply

Monday, August 29, 2011 at 12:18 AM

 

3

smdh said...

This makes me crazy. Haven’t we been down this road? We know how this story ends; low income housing will have an adverse effect on the schools, police, fire and ambulance. Any money this city gets from renting these apartments is nothing compared to what it is going to cost us. We are better off leaving them boarded up or better yet knock them down. Do our mayor and city council not remember how these apartments effected this community?

 

Reply

Monday, August 29, 2011 at 08:56 AM

 

4

Go to an AA meeting said...

This is what happens when you have four drunken idiots making decisions with taxpayer money

 

Reply

Monday, August 29, 2011 at 06:37 PM

 

5

better off without them. said...

Those apartments are far better than the scumbags who occupied them before. The city should buy more property.

 

Reply

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 08:33 AM

 

6

Get with the times said...

Why doesn't our city have a facebook page? The PD's page is worthless so I am "friends" with Mt. Ephraim. Leading up to the storm, during and after people went on fb for local info. The lack of communication from this town led to rumors being spread such as an evacutation...everything posted was "so and so told me".

 

Reply

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 10:06 PM

 

7

Mike Stanton said in reply to better off without them. ...

Of all the previous tenants of Chatham Square, what percentage of them caused the "social ills" that warranted the costs and risks that came with this project?

Of all the previous tenants that caused the "social ills" how many simply moved somewhere else in GC?

Is the city better off to the tune of risking $4.2million tax dollars to purchase Chatham Square, of having so far paid about $410k in tax dollars for interest, and losing $233k in foregone property tax revenue, and risk lending $1.1million to a builder in a severely depressed building market?

GC needs to recoup almost $100k on each one of the 50 units just to break even. How much of those GC tax dollars would you sacrifice to justify your 'far better' opinion?

 

Reply

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 10:20 PM

 

8

CNBNewsnet said...

Dear Get with the times..

The Nixle program is the way to go. Those communities who use Nixle offer their residents who join to receive either an email or a text message when there is an emergency/alert. And it is free!.

From Nixle’s website, “Nixle is a Community Information Service dedicated to helping you stay connected to the information that matters most to you, depending on your physical location. You stay connected to your local police department, your children’s schools, your local community agencies and organizations, and the important information from other locations throughout the country that are relevant to you.

Read more: http://www.gloucestercitynews.net/clearysnotebook/2011/08/cnbnews-point-of-view-wake-up-people-the-chatham-square-boon-doggle.html#comment-form#ixzz1WbyVn4EA

 

Reply

Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 09:09 AM

 

9

smdh said in reply to Mike Stanton...

I would risk it all, because it will cost more in the end. Knock them down - TODAY.

 

Reply

Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 12:56 PM

 

10

better off without them said...

answers below...

Of all the previous tenants of Chatham Square, what percentage of them caused the "social ills" that warranted the costs and risks that came with this project? - All of them in my opinion. That place was in shambles!

Of all the previous tenants that caused the "social ills" how many simply moved somewhere else in GC? - Not sure but we should buy their houses / apts too.

Is the city better off to the tune of risking $4.2million tax dollars to purchase Chatham Square, of having so far paid about $410k in tax dollars for interest, and losing $233k in foregone property tax revenue, and risk lending $1.1million to a builder in a severely depressed building market? Yes (see my comments regarding buying more) I am willing to pay more taxes to better Gloucester and get rid of scumbags.

GC needs to recoup almost $100k on each one of the 50 units just to break even. How much of those GC tax dollars would you sacrifice to justify your 'far better' opinion? - Much more than I am paying now if it rids more scumbags.

 

Why does this town have to suffer because of scumbags who don't care. Let them live some other place. We need to start fighting back in this town and I say we start with taxes.

Or would you rather more good hearted people leave town because we are being over run with scumbags that are ruining our town.

 

Reply

Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 09:31 PM

 

11

$1 MILLION MISSING? said...

Oren brothers borrowed $1.1 million from the taxpayers of Gloucester to rehab those apartments. Did they ever pay back the loan?

 

Reply

Tuesday, March 04, 2014 at 10:53 PM

 

12

voters forget said in reply to $1 MILLION MISSING?...

Actually there have been at least 3 loans to Orens Brothers and possibly a fourth.

Initial loan was for $1.1million

2nd loan was for $600k plus

3rd loan was for $72k

There may have been a 4th...I cannot recall.

Would be surprised if a unit sale was not a trigger for the first payment by Orens.

 

Reply

Wednesday, March 05, 2014 at 02:51 PM

 

13

M said...

One loan with 4 modifications. Adjusted loan amount $1,856,474.

see Resolution 044 from 2012

http://www.cityofgloucester.org/documents/R0442012.pdf

 

Reply

Wednesday, March 05, 2014 at 07:06 PM

 

14

Question #2 said...

Is there any chance Oren Brothers could default on their loans?

 

Reply

Wednesday, March 05, 2014 at 07:39 PM

 

15

reader said...

I have some questions. Why would you have beaser homes build homes that did sell for two hundred k plus and not have them take over the chathem square property and develope it also. Why would the city them rehab an eyesoar to create low income property right next to these beaser properties. Why hasnt the city sold any of these properties. Why does this city continue to throw good money after bad at the chathem square property. Now the city want a reassessment so they can raise taxes higher than the two percent cap,could it be to offset the cost of these bad investments,or to pay the thirty million dollar debt,or just to do more of these bad deals. I guess ill have to read the mayors column to find out.

 

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Thursday, March 06, 2014 at 06:13 AM

 

16

all possible said in reply to Question #2...

of course,gm said so

 

Reply

Thursday, March 06, 2014 at 07:55 AM

 

17

simple math said...

Mayor and Council have a serious lack of understanding and appreciation for the cost of time as it relates to the loans for Chatham Square.

As of 3/1/2014; the deferred interest on the original loan is about $811,690. The estimated deferred interest on each of the loan modifications is $136,752, $50,751, and $4,885. That means the current total loan balance (original loans + deferred interest)with Orens Brothers is $7,110,552.

Deferred interest alone will cost Gloucester City $16,500 for the month of March. Add the lost property tax revenue of about $6333 per month and Chatham Square is costing Gloucester City a minimum of $22,833 per month…every month. $22,833 per month for our Mayor and Council to do NOTHING.

Surely something can be done to make real progress. Something that costs more than ZERO and less than $22,833 per month.

Surely after 70 months and not one unit sold we need to take a different course.

People, we are well past the point of recovering 100% of what has been sunk into Chatham Square. And we will never EVER realize the benefits of the alternative projects that may have been initiated these past SIX years with $7million.

And every month this project drags on is one less month in the future that any resources recovered from Chatham Square can be applied to new challenges. Gloucester City cannot afford to lose more time.

James Gang(whats left of it), what are you NOT going to do this month that costs us $22,833? Councilpersons Johnson, Baus, and Bucher, how much more of a burden from this James Gang legacy will you be able to endure? Cha-ching!

 

Reply

Thursday, March 06, 2014 at 03:55 PM

 

18

clarification said in reply to reader...

reassessments are not an exception for the property tax cap.

 

Reply

Thursday, March 06, 2014 at 04:23 PM

 

19

A New Start? said...

Regardless what any of us think of the James Administration, the fact remains that Gloucester City is too disfunctional to solve its own fiscal or social problems.

A glaring example, that makes the point, is the fact that even with the rapid spiral of decline that we see, the best we could do was to elect Pat Keating to bring fresh new ideas to the leadership of the City.

All we have to do is drive one mile north to Camden to see what an excellent job he has done for the last twenty years as the Director of Public Works of the City of Camden.

And if we consider him the the best, the brightest and the most experienced City Official in our governing body based on his demonstrated performance in his day job, what is in store for us next?

I don't think we should ask Pat Keating to cite his own accomplishments but maybe our community relations specialist could do it.

 

Reply

Thursday, March 06, 2014 at 06:39 PM

 

20

THE EXTERMINATOR said...

M attached a link to a city resolution that amended the original loan to Oren brothers because of damage from termite infestation.

Did the city have the property inspected for termites before they purchased the property?

If not why not?

You would think Oren Bros., would have inspected the property for termite and structure damage before applying for the original loan.

The mayor said in January the city was in negotiations with a company that was going to make it a senior citizen housing complex. What is happening with that grandiose plan, does anyone know?

Residents be warned you are going to be socked this year with one of the biggest tax hikes in the history of Gloucester because of this mayor's incompetence.

 

Reply

Thursday, March 06, 2014 at 06:54 PM

 

21

reader said...

Personally i think before any public contract is awarded the company should be made to submit its employee roster to make sure there is no family connection with those in charge of awarding such contracts. Also goes for the studies and consultations. Just to keep things fair and honest and no conflict of interest.

 

Reply

Friday, March 07, 2014 at 06:33 AM

 

22

Am I right or wrong??? said in reply to reader...

Your thoughts of fairness are shared by all of us except the members of the Democrat Club.

They believe in the Spoils System. To the victors go the spoils. We are those spoils.

It is sometimes difficult to find or recall the links to past employment. But if you just focus on hiring that has occurred during the James Administration I would bet that everyone hired has some personal link to those already/ previously hired.

Be it friend, family or Club membership I will suggest there is someone out there that can offer an explanation that details an existing link.

I will also suggest that these selections have resulted in hiring persons who were not the best qualified for their position.

Please offer those links if you can. I have little contact wih the governing body or the City workforce but I believe I understand the James Gang.

 

Reply

Friday, March 07, 2014 at 11:21 AM

 

23

it's madness i tell you said...

In November 2006, the city purchased 29 South Burlington St for $79,900. The house was adjacent to a parking lot on the SW corner of Somerset and South Burlington Sts. (across Burlington from Bramble’s, across Somerset from St Mary Annex)

Why did the James Gang let the house waste away unoccupied for 5 1/2 years (about $12k lost property tax revenue)?

In June 2012, Resolution 153 awarded Triad Assoc., $14,200 to prepare and submit an application for a Small Cities grant to knock down the house and incorporate the lot into the adjacent parking lot.

In July of 2012, Resolution 188 awarded Site Enterprises $26,700 to demolish the house.

Excluding the cost to finally pave the expanded parking lot (cannot find Res on city web site), Gloucester City spent $129,800 in tax dollars for what? A net increase of 3 more parking spots!

Three more parking spots in a parking lot that had exactly ZERO automobiles parked in it on the night of Monday, March 10, 2014 at 10:30 PM. $130k to expand parking for Gloucester Catholic students. Remember now, Gloucester Catholic plans to leave the city.

$43,333 for each parking spot! Three Gloucester Catholic students thank the James Gang and the taxpayers of Gloucester City for their generosity.

 

Reply

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 04:23 PM

 

24

Thank You said in reply to it's madness i tell you...

Thank you for your time and research. You seem to have a good handle on rational thinking.

If you could allow me to impose upon your good nature, I seem to recall an attempt to auction off that property along with the 4th and Market St. property and one other. Rumor has it that the auction grossed $500.00 due to the secretive nature of the advertising by the City. I think it is called failure to communicate with the community by the community relations specialist.

That rumor in part was that Ed Anyzek was willing to buy back the property for $100.00 at 4th and Market. He was also the lone bidder for the Burlington St. property that is now a parking lot.

What was the original acquistion price that Anyzek made at tax sale? What did the City pay Anyzek to reacquire 4th and Market? And what has the City invested in 4th and Market to date? Finally what is the break even point?

 

Reply

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 06:15 PM

 

25

Question #2 said in reply to simple math...

You made a valid point. We cannot afford the kind of waste/loss that is occurring at Chatham Square but we see no action/reaction to your very question.

If we had independent thinking council members we might be able to get some answers even if they differ.

As it stands now there is no chance because the governing body policy is to surpress all discussion and communication between the community and the governing body.

How can this problem be corrected?

 

Reply

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 07:57 PM

 

26

M. McDermott said...

I think it was evident from the day James and cronies took over our city that they had no plans of telling anybody what their goals were.

But now after 7 plus years it is obvious that all along their goal was to make Gloucester City into another Camden.

And it is evident that they have succeeded in their quest.

All that is left is for James to play Taps on his bag pipe.

 

Reply

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 08:06 PM

 

27

it' madness I tell you said in reply to Thank You...

I am not afraid to speculate but not without supporting evidence. My intentions are to illustrate the questionable actions/decisions of the James Gang. I will not investigate or research to support somebody else's innuendo. I will leave that to others.

 

Reply

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 10:21 AM

 

28

it' madness I tell you said...

The following had already been researched and prepared before invited to by "Thank You" in post 24.

In November 2006, the city purchased 328 Market St for $100,377 and 326 Market St for $119,623.

Why did the James gang let the houses sit unoccupied for 5 1/2 years (about $40,000 lost property tax revenue)?

In June 2012, Resolution 152 awarded Triad Assoc., $7,500 to prepare and submit an application for a Small Cities grant to knock down the two houses to make way for 3 lots for affordable housing.

In December 2012, Resolution 292 modified the contract for Winzinger Inc. to demolish the two houses. The final cost for demo? $69,000!

Gloucester City has spent $296,500 tax dollars for what (we could legitimately add to that the $40k for lost property tax but that is just "piling on")? Three empty lots! Nearly $100,000 PER LOT.

It is nearly 17 months past the deadline to apply for the NJ DCA program administered by Triad to sell and build the affordable houses. What is the current status? Is the NJ DCA program still applicable to assisted qualified buyers?

What did the James Gang get Gloucester City for the low low cost of $300,000? THREE EMPTY LOTS! How many vacant lots did the city already own in the summer of 2012? How many vacant lots has the city recently sold to the highest bidder for as little as $150. These are just 3 more vacant lots that could be sold for $150 to notified contiguous property owners.

 

Reply

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 10:24 AM

 

29

What if said...

What if back in 2006, the city had purchased 326 Market St for $119,623 (let's assume that was a bonafide market price), invested $30,000 in renovations, and then resold it 4 months later, at a market rate, for $119,623. With stipulations for it to be owner-occupied for 5 years and that it could not be converted to multiple units.

One could look at it as a $30,000 loss. OMG!. Or, one could look at the $30,000 of free renovations as the equivalent of a 7 year tax abatement built into the price of the house.

What would we get out of it? The buyers would get a real good deal. The city would get a renovated house in a neighborhood crying out for investment with a homeowner recently qualified (with a market rate mortgage).

What if the city targeted certain neighborhoods and did just one renovation at a time. Never buying a new property until the previous property was sold. What if the city had sustained such a pace? Three houses per year would be renovated. The city would have had about 21 homes renovated by now.

Do not underestimate the value of investment in a neighborhood, how it affects neighboring houses, how it improves communities.

 

Reply

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 10:27 AM

 

30

Questions said in reply to What if...

The concept sounds interesting. 

How would you organize such an operation? 

Who would be the appropriate people to manage such a project?

What would be the role of the governing body?

How would you accomplish the $30K of renovation?

 

Reply

Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 09:58 PM

 

31

M said...

Mayor James has 9 months left to leave his legacy on Gloucester City. What will it be? Freedom Pier? Amspec? Organic Diversions? Fort Nassau Park? What we got for $29 million in bond debt? Has Gloucester City been ridded of nuisance apartment tenants or slum lords? Has the James Gang laid a foundation to prepare Gloucester City for the "eventual" economic expansion? Or will the James Gang legacy be Chatham Square? 

 

Mayor James has 9 months left to put Chatham Square, the most costly project, behind us. Or, he can leave it to the next administration. Every month without a solution costs tax payers $22,833 (according to "simple math" above)!

 

The Democrat Club has a decision to make; have the current Democratic administration make the tough decision now to solve Chatham Square and suffer the political fallout in November (worst case, some new dems will be elected…does anybody really believe the Dems would lose their grip?)? Or, postpone the tough decision and let the next Democratic administration be burdened with it? Either way a decision must be made. To wait till after January 2015 will cost taxpayers another $228,330.

Who will show leadership? Mayor James? The current Council members? The decision makers in the Democrat Club?

 

Reply

Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 10:27 AM

 

32

Questions 2 said in reply to Questions...

How is the current James Administration crony group, GCEDC, handling the renovations on Monmouth Street?

How much are those renovations costing?

 

Reply

Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 08:54 PM

 

33

M.McDermott said...

His legacy has already been written, the worst democratic mayor in the history of Gloucester city.

Who held the record before him? There were several, Bevan, Tut Kilcourse, Lou Kelly, Vince Daily to name a few.

 

Reply

Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 10:45 PM

 

- See more at: http://www.gloucestercitynews.net/clearysnotebook/2011/08/cnbnews-point-of-view-wake-up-people-the-chatham-square-boon-doggle.html#.dpuf

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