WILKES-BARRE — Sensing council wasn’t buying what the administration was proposing, the sale of the Park & Lock East garage for $2 million won’t be voted on anytime soon, said city Administrator Ted Wampole.
The deal to sell the city-owned parkade to Washington & Market Street Properties LLC was pulled from the agenda of city council’s work session Tuesday night, Wampole said.
“We’re going to take a step back and see where we go from here,” Wampole said Monday.
“It’s definitely not dead. We still think it’s a good move from the city’s standpoint,” Wampole added.
Council held off on a vote last month when the proposal was first discussed publicly and directed Wampole to gather information from other sources on the effects of the sale. Council had concerns that the city was planning to sell a revenue producing asset and had only $300,000 left to pay to satisfy the debt on the facility.
Unbeknown to council that has to approve the sale of city property, the administration had been holding confidential discussions with RAM, the owners of the office building adjacent to the garage. Antonio Rado and Martin Mariano and their attorney Frank Hoegen approached the city about a deal that would have put control of the garage in their hands, giving them a marketing chip in their search for tenants to replace Geisinger that was leaving in January 2019.
Their interest would have addressed the reverter clause in the property’s deed that said RAM and the owner of the former Martz building next door had to approve the sale of the garage by the city. Hoegen said the other property owner would go along with the sale if it could keep its existing parking arrangement.
But the deal had a 60-day deadline from April 26, the original date council was supposed to vote on it. If it was delayed, Washington Market Street Properties might reduce its offer that was $500,000 higher than the appraisal obtained by the city.
The city’s financial adviser, PFM, one of the parties contacted by Wampole at council’s request, remained neutral on the sale. PFM’s Gordon Mann advised the city to be prudent with the sale’s excess proceeds.
Desman Design Management, the Chicago-based firm conducting a study on the possible sale or lease of the city’s parking assets, approved of the deal.
It provided a list of pros and cons, saying the sale would give RAM dedicated parking that would make it easier to attract tenants. But if the sale went through, the Parking Authority might not be able to provide the $150,000 a year it provides to the city.
Tom Torbik, executive director of the Parking Authority, reiterated Desman’s point on the loss of revenue in a two-page memo he sent to city council on May 3.
“If the East Garage is sold to private investors and the Parking Authority is not able to spread its expenses over a larger number of occupied spaces it is extremely unlikely that the Authority will be able to make the $150,000 to the City on a yearly basis,” Torbik said in the memo.
Torbik said the Authority was not included in the sale discussions and its members “were in shock” when they learned of the pending sale of the garage.
The authority does not support the sale, Torbik said when contacted by phone Monday. “That’s our feeling,” he said.
The decision to pull the matter from the agenda received a different reaction, Torbik said.
”I’m certainly in favor of it. I can speak for the board and myself and our counsel, yes we are happy it was pulled,” Torbik said.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.