The property in question, located at 31C West First Street, is owned by Joseph Depue. It is where Wind Gap District Judge Adrianne Masut currently conducts business.
In negotiating this new lease, County-hired appraisers looked at the rents charged by comparable magistrate's offices in Allentown and Bethlehem. County Solicitor Karl Longenbach informed Council that appraisers refused to look at the market value of office space in Wind Gap.
"Do you know what an appraiser is?" asked Angle. "Someone with $3 worth of gas in his tank, a briefcase and an opinion." Insisting that their "manner of valuation is flawed," Angle argued that appraisers should have looked at the rental fees being charged for office space in Wind Gap. "I'm not an expert appraiser, but I'm an expert at dealing with appraisers," concluded Angle.
Echoing Angle's concerns, Council member Barbara Thierry noted that she owns property in that area, and "I can't get anywhere near that kind of money."
In response to a question from Council member John Cusick, Longenbach stated there are no unique security improvements at the site. He also told Council that the going rate for magistrate office space is between $14 and $19 per square foot.
The only Council member to support this new lease was Ann McHale, who stated "I know what we pay in Bethlehem." Council member Lamont McClure was absent.
Longenbach told Council he'd go back to the drawing board, and Council member Bruce Gilbert suggested that Depue could have either a vacant property or one with "conditions that are in our favor."
In other business, Executive John Stoffa advised Council about some cost-saving measures of his own. He will re institute the voluntary furlough program that 20 employees used last year. He is also considering buyouts for some longtime County workers.
Although open space is an item on Council's chopping block, Plainfield Township resident Matt Glennon reminded Council that before last year's election, five of them pledged they would stick with John Stoffa's "pay as you go" open space program. That sets aside a half mill of tax annually for farmland preservation, parks and the purchase of environmentally sensitive land.