LOCKPORT – The Common Council went behind closed doors Wednesday to discuss whether to change the rules for tax foreclosure auctions after an incident that led to a lawsuit against the city.
Daryl Ubiles, of Lockport, was the high bidder for two parcels at the Oct. 23 auction and put down deposits totaling $6,150 for the sites on Center and North Transit streets. However, six days after the auction, City Hall informed Ubiles that he owed city and school property taxes on one of the four properties he already owns in Lockport. Ubiles claimed in his lawsuit, filed Jan. 18, that he never received the 2012 city tax bill or the 2012-13 school tax bill for that property on Clinton Street. He said he paid the taxes, totaling $399, the same day he learned he owed them.
However, the rules of the city auction say that if someone who is behind on property taxes in Lockport happens to win property, the city will keep his deposit and refuse to sell the land.
Thus, the city sold the Center and North Transit properties to the second-highest bidder and refused to refund Ubiles’ deposits. Ubiles is suing to get his money back.
Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano is going to investigate the matter further, but Alderman Joseph C. Kibler, R-at Large, said he doesn’t think any changes in policy are warranted.
“My own opinion is, if you change it, you’re opening up a can of worms,” Kibler said, adding he doesn’t think the city should pay back any money to Ubiles.
In other matters, Mayor Michael W. Tucker said the city has to make plans to replace the City Hall phone system this year, a task that may cost about $200,000.
“It keeps kicking out,” Tucker said. He said Norman D. Allen, engineering and public works director “has to keep coming in the middle of the night to reboot it.”
The phone system is about 20 years old. Tucker said the city might have to borrow money for the work, although since the police and fire departments are in the building, Homeland Security or drug forfeiture funds could be used. Tucker also told the Council that Allen has offered to supply $3,000 from his department’s budget to pay for a temporary replacement for a staffer in the City Clerk’s Office who is to go on maternity leave.