Tonawanda News

February 20, 2013

Ava's sale halted by court order

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Despite a last-minute court ordered stay over the sale of a prominent Webster Street property once home to Ava’s Place, the North Tonawanda city council on Tuesday gave Mayor Rob Ortt its blessing to proceed with the transaction.

Issues over the building — which closed in early December and was seized by the city in late January for delinquent tax payments — will be resolved in Niagara County Court next week before state Supreme Court Judge Frank Caruso, who allowed the city to take possession of the property in the first place. 

Randy Siford, who owned Ava’s with his mother, entered City Hall with his attorney just after 4 p.m. on Tuesday and handed the stay to clerk/treasurer Scott Kiedrowski. 

“We have to go back to court with the city to settle the agreement and to find out why they wouldn’t take our payment in a timely fashion,” Siford said. 

Siford and his mother owed the city, the county and the school district $50,000 in back taxes, but paid half of it in November. He said when he attempted to pay the city the remainder of the taxes in late January, which included fines, the city wouldn’t accept the money and moved toward acquiring the building instead. 

The city had planned to sell the 88 Webster St. building to Jay Soemann for $95,000 — the same individual that Siford said he had planned to sell it to for $140,000 prior to the city taking ownership of the building. 

“The city is standing firm on this,” Nickerson said. “We’re just temporarily holding off  on completing the sale.” 

Siford said that the bar had had been in the family for 36 years, when financial difficulties related to his mother’s illness caused unpaid tax bills to pile up. He and his attorney will now move to show cause that the city “wouldn’t take our money” prior to the deadline. 

“We just haven’t been able to make ends meet,” he said. “We’ve been trying to sell it for three years and we finally closed on it. I don’t think the city had anything to lose by letting us pay it off.” 

The hearing will take place at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 28. 

In other council news: 

• North Tonawanda Police Officer Daryl Truty was recognized with a proclamation of heroism for rescuing a drowning swimmer from the Niagara River in July while off duty. 

“We come to work every day knowing that Officer Truty has our back,” said police Chief Randy Szukala. 

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.