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Payback barely passes board

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Board of Supervisors was evenly divided Tuesday on the county reimbursing the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency for nearly $6,900 in legal expenses the IDA incurred in an aborted eminent domain procedure.

But in the end, the vote passed at the County Office Building.

“I can’t support this,” Johnstown 3rd Ward Supervisor Jack Callery said prior to the vote.

After that comment, a succession of county legislators indicated they agreed with that assessment. The board, however, had voted earlier this year to pay back the IDA’s legal expenses for exploring eminent domain in the matter of properties owned by late town of Johnstown resident Robert Bowe.

“I feel we shouldn’t be reimbursing them,” said Northampton Supervisor James Groff.

The board ended up voting nine in favor, nine opposed, with two absences. The resolution passed by weighted vote.

The resolution was to reimburse the IDA in the amount of $6,898 for legal expenses in the canceled eminent domain attempt. Passage was on the recommendation of Administrative Officer Jon Stead, board Chairman Jack Wilson the Economic Development and Environment Committee and the Finance Committee. Action was taken based on a “prior commitment” by the board, the resolution said.

Fulton County supervisors earlier this year authorized the IDA to initiate an eminent domain proceeding for Bowe’s two parcels. That resolution specified that related expenses the IDA incurred — primarily legal expenses — would be reimbursed to it by the county. The property had been sought after by the county, although pursuit was short-lived. The Board of Supervisors voted June 10 not to pursue eminent domain proceedings to obtain Bowe’s land.

Fulton County has for some time been interested in creating a Hales Mills Development Area. That property was owned by Bowe. In summer 2018, Bowe put up for sale a 69-acre parcel on the west side of Hales Mills Road Extension and an 89.5-acre parcel on the road’s east side. Bowe sought $5,000 per acre, the county offered only $3,000 per acre. Bowe passed away May 27, but prior that, the county made an attempt to acquire the land through eminent domain. After public backlash, the Board of Supervisors decided not to pursue eminent domain proceedings to obtain Bowe’s land.

The Bowe property is currently involved in probate proceedings. The county is now waiting to determine if it can be purchased.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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