OSWEGO — A Scriba property that used to be the site of May’s Polynesian Motel and Mini-Mart is one step closer to being on the tax rolls more than four years after it was destroyed in a fire.
The Oswego County Government, Courts and Consumer Affairs Committee unanimously approved an agreement with the New York State Environmental Spill Protection Fund regarding the property at 5617 state Route 104 across from the Scriba Fire Department. The county will pay the fund 50 percent of the proceeds when the property is sold at auction as soon as this spring.
“We want to make sure the property gets back on the tax rolls,” county legislator Terry Wilbur, R-Hannibal, told The Palladium-Times. “If you drive by there, you see the property is still sitting there vacant and nobody is doing anything with it. … Right now the biggest goal is to get it back on the tax rolls and producing again, so that the rest of the neighbors and the county isn’t making up for that property that’s sitting there without taxes on it.”
A New Year’s Day fire destroyed both structures on the 2-acre lot and took the life of 48-year-old owner Steven May in 2016. The county foreclosed on the property in 2018, and the buildings were demolished in November.
Oswego County Land Bank President Shane Broadwell, who helped spearhead the property cleanup, said last year county officials did not know the best course of action for the property at first, but after consulting with the state about the cleanup program, the entities worked out a deal in which the county would demolish the structures and the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) would perform the tank removal and any environmental remediation.
According to the agreement with the state, the county incurred $20,952 in highway costs to demolish the building, break up and haul away the concrete pads, and cut up the steel. There was also $9,978 owed in back taxes on the property from 2016 to 2018.
The agreement says the fund “would release its liens on certain terms and conditions, which would permit the property to be placed on the tax rolls again and hopefully into productive use.”
The DEC is expected to remove the underground storage tanks, along with the full in-the-ground cleanup and remediation.
While the property is closer to being a shovel-ready site for a new owner, work still needs to be done before the property can go to auction.
“I don’t think they’ve removed the tanks yet, so we’re waiting on that. Then whatever it sells for at auction, we split half with the state,” said Legislator David Holst, R-Williamstown, who chairs the county Government, Courts and Consumer Affairs Committee.
A date has yet to be set for the 2020 county property auction, but the target is for May. Officials said the final date would depend on when the 300-plus properties are processed, a secure location is set and an auction company is available.
“I can’t guarantee it will be. It all comes down to construction,” Wilbur said of the May’s property being included in the upcoming auction. “I think everyone is optimistic it will be in this auction.”
Broadwell at the time of demolition said without the state program the former May’s site would likely have sat idle for even longer due to the high cost of demolition, soil testing and tank removal and disposal. He called the DEC program and the property cleanup “a great thing,” and said the end result would be a clean, shovel-ready site.
More municipalities could take advantage of the DEC spill program, Broadwell said, noting there are old corner gas stations “sitting all over the place.”