Lebanon fails to sell house at auction

Written by John Latimer, Lebanon Daily News | May 1, 2015 3:00 PM
house auction 1 600x340.jpg

Photo by Jeremy Long, Lebanon Daily News

The City of Lebanon tried to auction off this property at 164 N. Ninth St. on Wednesday. The city purchased the property during the Norfolk Southern railroad overpass project.

(Lebanon) -- A property the City of Lebanon purchased during the Norfolk Southern railroad overpass project was put on sale at auction Wednesday.

The bids for it were too low, and the city did not agree to sell it.

The city owns the building because it was required, under the federal Uniform Relocation Act, to provide a home to Brenda Rothgaber and her family after the house they rented was demolished for the bridge project.

The tenants and owners of about five dozen homes were given cash settlements to help them relocate, but Rothgaber was the only one who could not find a comparable dwelling at the same rent for her and her seven children.

Using bridge project funds in January 2010, the city purchased 164 N. Ninth St. from Good Samaritan Hospital for $110,000, according to Lebanon County tax records. It has also spent about $31,000 to make alterations to convert building from its previous use as a doctor's office, and to resolve a basement flooding problem, said Mayor Sherry Capello.

The house is located just south of the Ninth Street bridge, in a sheltered spot between the Quittapahilla Creek and the Knights of Columbus building. Its current assessed value is $127,900.

Rothgaber and her family moved into the house in October 2010. She currently pays the city a monthly rent of $850 plus utilities, and lives there with five children between the ages of 14 and 19.

The city first tried to sell the 2 1/2 story brick building in the spring of 2013, when City Council authorized it be advertised for sealed bid. It did not attract any bids.

Wednesday's auction was conducted by Lebanon auctioneer David Kleinfelter of Kleinfelter's Auction in Lebanon, who started the bidding at $110,000.

When no one bid that amount, the value quickly plummeted, until rental property owner Harold Bowman got the auction going with an offer of $25,000.

"I only learned this was up for sale today when I stopped by Kleinfelter's, said Bowman, who was accompanied by his wife, Shirley.

The only other bidder was property investor Frank Anthony.

The pair traded bids, until Bowman offered $46,000 and Anthony said he would go no higher.

When it was clear that no other bids would be made, Capello and city Solicitor Donna Brightbill held a private conference with Bowman. After about 15 minutes, Bowman left, stating that he would not meet the city's price, which he declined to disclose at the city's request.

The city is seeking a good price to recoup its investment and because any money from the sale can be used for another bridge project, Capello said.

The mayor said she will bring the matter back to City Council to reconsider the options.

Meanwhile, Rothgaber remains in limbo.

After Wednesday's auction, she said she would prefer to stay because she likes the location. If the new owner does not want her as a tenant, she will have 30 days to move after closing.

"It's frustrating never knowing if I'm coming or going," Rothgaber said. "I like it here. We have ducks and the water, and we are by ourselves. It's like we are in the country."

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Photo by Jeremy Long, Lebanon Daily News

Mayor Sherry Capello, left, listens to Dave Kleinfelter, second from right, auctioneer at Kleinfelter's Auction in Lebanon, go over the terms of the property as the City of Lebanon tries to auction off the property at 164 N. Ninth St. on Wednesday. Also pictured are Solicitor Donna Brightbill and property investor Frank Anthony.

This article comes to us through a partnership between Lebanon Daily News and WITF. 

Published in Lebanon, News

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