GLOVERSVILLE — The entity that owns the David & Helen Getman Memorial Home at 15 E. State St. has decided not to sell the property amid concerns the Fulton County Board of Supervisors would not forgive the $28,222 in back taxes and penalties still owed for the parcel.
The perspective of the property owner was explained in a letter dated Tuesday, Jan. 24, from the Law Office of Christopher Stanyon, located in Gloversville, sent to the prospective buyer’s attorney Valerie Capobianco, located in Amsterdam.
“Please be advised that due to the excessive tax burden on the above property, as well as my suspicion that the Attorney General may not approve of the sale, my client has decided to no longer proceed with the sale of the property,” wrote Stanyon. “If you are in agreement, I will have the Realtor’s prepare a Release.”
Stanyon’s comment regarding the New York state Attorney General’s Office references the requirement in New York state law that the court system agree to the sale of any assets from a nonprofit entity, which the Attorney General’s office often reviews prior to a court petition to allow for a sale to be approved.
Fulton County’s “Parcel Status Report” for 15 E. State St. (section, block, lot number 134.11-1-6) shows the current owner to be the “David & Helen Getman Mem. Home c/o ICC Management & Consultin,” and lists this mailing address: PO Box 1355 Albany, NY 12201.
When contacted Wednesday, Stanyon said he did not want to comment on the letter until confirming with his client, the owner, and would not confirm nor deny the identity of the owner. Stanyon did not return a phone call for this story Thursday.
Stanyon’s letter to Capobianco includes a carbon copy notation for copies to be sent to George Scala, the last known chairman of the board of directors for the David & Helen Getman Memorial Home and realtor Sandy Russo.
E.J. Gallup, a real estate developer who is also the FMCC’s men’s basketball coach, was set to purchase the property for $15,000, until it was revealed that a combined $60,764.61 worth of unpaid city, Gloversville Enlarged School District and county property taxes that began accruing in 2018 were owed on the parcel. The building ceased operations as an adult retirement home on June 15, 2017.
Fulton County’s parcel status report shows the property, which is one of the oldest homes in Gloversville, is currently classified as an “aged home,” with an assessed value of $95,000.
Gallup said he lives near the Getman Home and has long been interested in trying to rehabilitate the property, but only if he could acquire it at a price that would enable him to invest in repairing the building. While he said he never spoke with the current owner of the property, his offer to buy the building for $15,000 was accepted, until he was blindsided by the issue of the owed property taxes.
“We go through the contract and the day before the closing, my attorney called me and said there was a foreclosure letter coming through for the house and they had about $56,000 [at that time] worth of back taxes they never let us know about and never said anything about,” Gallup said. “So, that was a bit of a surprise, obviously, so I’m not going to go from paying $15,000 to $56,000 in back taxes, and at that point we kind of agreed that if I could work on getting the taxes lowered, and get it close to the $15,000 mark, I would just pay the back taxes.”
Of the remaining $28,222 in back taxes and penalties still owed for the parcel, the lion’s share of the money owed — $20,747.92 — is derived from Gloversville Enlarged School District (GESD) school property taxes, which can be broken down to: $15,045.64 in base school taxes owed, $5,073.43 in interest owed on those unpaid school taxes and $628.85 owed in penalties.
GESD School Board President Robert Curtis said the district was contacted about the property taxes owed by the former Getman Home, but he said it has no control over the issue because GESD is made whole from its loss by Fulton County. Curtis said he’s dismayed by the fate of the old building.
“[It’s] too bad. It will continue to sit vacant and rot until [the county] finally forecloses on it,” Curtis wrote in a social media message.
Decades ago, the city of Gloversville, under something called the “Hornell Plan,” transferred its property tax foreclosure power to Fulton County in exchange for the county taking over the responsibility to pay the unpaid school taxes to GESD for property in Gloversville. The Hornell Plan, however, does not obligate the county to make the city government whole for unpaid city property taxes.
In December, the Gloversville Common Council voted 5-0 to waive $32,695 worth of unpaid city property taxes and penalty fees accrued by the nonprofit owner of the former retirement home. The city’s property tax bill also included a very large water bill, which Mayor Vince DeSantis said was likely due to a leak and was approximately $8,000, which bumped the money owed to the city for 2018 to $13,218, according to the Fulton County parcel status report.
DeSantis and members of the Common Council, including 3rd Ward Councilwoman Betsy Batchelor, who sponsored the resolution to waive the taxes, argued the building had not paid property taxes during the decades when it operated as a nonprofit, and it was in the long term interest of the city to take action to help Gallup restore the historic building rather than to allow it to further deteriorate.
The council’s action was further bolstered by local author and historian Don Williams, who was also a long-time columnist for the Leader-Herald, who wrote in his new “Adirondack/Mohawk Series” of booklets that the former Getman home is an example of a building that needs to be saved because of its connection to the deepest roots of history in Gloversville.
Williams said the parcel’s history traces back to the Revolutionary War before the first version of the mansion on the property was built by glove manufacturing tycoon Daniel Judson. The building eventually became the Gloversville Business College, which had significant influence over the leather tanning boom in Gloversville and Fulton County as a whole, and was later turned into the David & Helen Getman Memorial Home.
But the arguments in favor of forgiving the property taxes have not been persuasive to every government official.
Fulton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott Horton said he does not think the majority of the board will be inclined to support forgiving the property taxes.
“The city of Gloversville certainly wants to see that piece of property productive, and the county wants to see it productive too, but people have an obligation to pay their taxes,” he said. “You just can’t forgive taxes without a valid reason, because basically you’re saying to everyone else who does pay their taxes you have to pay a little bit more because this person didn’t.”
The smallest portion of the back taxes are due to unpaid county taxes $7,474, but through the rules of the Hornell Plan, county taxpayers also paid the $20,747 owed to GESD.
Horton said the Board of Supervisors is required to vote to approve any properties the county takes title to through property tax foreclosure. He’s never seen 15 E. State St. listed among the foreclosures or on any list of properties the county has removed from the property tax rolls, which the Board periodically does with brownfield properties it does not wish to acquire due to the risk of environmental cleanup liability.
Horton said the Fulton County Treasurer’s Office must first sign off on any property tax foreclosures before the property is sent to the Board of Supervisors for final approval. He does not know why the former Getman Home has gone through five property tax cycles without being foreclosed on, when the typical number is three.
During the five-years’ worth of property taxes from 2018-2022, the Fulton County Parcel Status Report only shows one payment from the owner of 15 E. State St. of $200 to the city of Gloversville paid on Dec. 30, 2020.
Fulton County Treasurer Heather Scribner Thursday offered this explanation for the county’s delay in foreclosing the former Getman Home.
“Due to COVID and the state mandate, all foreclosures were delayed until January 15, 2022,” wrote Scribner in an email response to questions for this story. “An auction was held in June for the 2018 foreclosures. The 2019 and 2020 are now in the In REM-Foreclosures process and last day to redeem is March 31, 2023.”
Gallup on Thursday said he would still be interested in purchasing the property from Fulton County’s foreclosure auction, but he’s concerned it will take too long due to structural damage that has exposed the interior to the elements.
“We started talking about this eight months ago, and since then every time it rains or it snows, it rains inside the house and snows inside the house,” Gallup said. “It’s getting worse and worse and worse, which obviously makes it a harder project to complete. At this point, obviously, I’m not willing to pay $30,000 worth of back taxes and the $15,000 [the seller] wants for the place.”
Gallup said he doesn’t know why Stanyon is now indicating he does not think the New York state Attorney General’s office would approve the sale of the building.
“His lawyer just told us with the back taxes he didn’t think the Attorney General would sign-off on it,” he said “Even if it does have to go to the Attorney General, I don’t know why the Attorney General would say no to it. I think it’s unfortunate, because where it looks like it’s headed now is foreclosure, and then it’s going to sit for two or three years, and at that point it will be demolished and it’ll be on the county and the city to have to pay for it.”
Gallup said he’s hopeful county officials might be able to facilitate a faster track for the foreclosure in order to save the building.
“To me, now if they’re saying they don’t want to sell it, then it’s going to foreclosure,” Gallup said. “I’m 100% willing to buy it through foreclosure, if that’s what it comes down to.”