FMCC dorms listed for $1.8M

JOHNSTOWN — FMCC’s nonprofit arm, the Fulmont College Association, has listed its three now-empty Campus View Apartment dorm halls for sale with an asking price equal to the property’s assessed value of $1.8 million.

Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Greg Truckenmiller, who also serves as the FCA’s board chairman, updated the college’s Board of Trustees during their Thursday meeting.

“We’ve relisted the property, so over the summer we worked with the [New York state] Attorney General’s office Bureau of Charities and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, to make sure everybody was on board, on the same page, in terms of how we were marketing the property, who we were going after, and what they wanted to make sure the process is smooth once we have a purchase contract in hand,” Truckenmiller said.

The FCA’s previous attempt to sell the buildings earlier this year was anything but smooth.

The property relisting follows an aborted attempt to sell the buildings in April to Amsterdam-based Dan Vann Properties LLC — owned by former Amsterdam Common Council member Dan Roth — for $1.1 million.

The FCA was founded in 1966 to be the nonprofit arm of FMCC, tasked with performing functions prohibited to the college by its state charter, such as directly owning dormitory halls, operating college book stores or providing food service.

As a nonprofit, the FCA needed permission from the court system to sell its assets, but its court petition to sell the buildings to Roth was withdrawn after it was challenged by attorney Teresa Monroe, of the Monroe Law firm in Albany, on behalf of her clients Bianca Alicea of Amsterdam, a nursing student at FMCC since 2017, and rental-unit owner William Petrosino of Amsterdam.

Monroe in her court challenge alleged fraud and a fatally flawed process, attacking the FCA’s court petition for permission on a number of grounds, including that the undisclosed sole real estate broker for the deal was past FMCC Board chairman Michael Sampone working for Pyramid Brokerage Company of Albany. Monroe stated in her court challenge the multiple listing service Sampone and Pyramid had claimed to have used to market the property did “not appear to actually exist.” She also called into question a highly unusual provision in the sales contract with Pyramid, which indicated the broker would be paid a $77,000 fee irrespective of whether the court approved the sale to Dan Vann Properties or not.

Ultimately, the FCA withdrew its court petition after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York filed a notice with Fulton County Supreme Court indicating it would be sending Assistant U.S. Attorney John D. Hoggan Jr. to a court conference on the matter scheduled for April 30.

The controversial sale of the dorm halls was complicated by multiple factors. The FCA needed officials with the USDA to sign off on the sale, because that federal agency had loaned the FCA $11.3 million in 2010 from the USDA for the purpose of purchasing and renovating the 1980s-vintage Fulton Hall and Montgomery Hall dorm buildings from a private company that owned them for $4 million and then building in 2012 the 144-bed, co-ed Raider Hall dorm for $7.1 million.

The build-up of FMCC’s dorms had been aimed at attracting more downstate and international students, who paid double-tuition, to the college. Although it was initially successful that plan faltered after President Donald Trump’s administration began putting new restrictions on student visas, helping to shrink the international students at FMCC from 160 in 2016 down to 47 by the 2020-21 school year, costing the college at least $1.3 million in annual tuition revenue and hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent for the FCA’s buildings, crippling the entities ability to make its annual $770,000 debt service payments to the USDA.

According to the FCA’s 990 nonprofit tax forms, filed with the Internal Revenue Service and posted to the website irs.gov, the amount of program revenue generated by the Campus View Apartments dropped significantly from 2015-16 school year when it was $2.3 million down to $1.8 million during the 2017-18 school year, and then down to $1.3 million for the 2018-19 school year. During the 2019-20 school year, the dorms were shut down completely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The FCA’s 990 forms filed with the IRS, however, are incomplete, with the 2016-17 school year missing. The available 990 forms show the FCA had expenses that exceeded revenues every year since the 2014-15 school year when it lost $119,000. For the 2015-16 school year it lost $189,648. Although the 2016-17 990 is missing, the “prior year” information in the FCA’s 990 form for 2017-18 shows the FCA lost a whopping $509,015 during the 2016-17 school year, losses then dropped to $70,947 for the 2017-18 school year, but then ballooned again to $760,178 for the 2018-19 school year.

During the FCA’s first attempt to sell the dorm halls in its court petition it argued the lack of revenues at the dorm buildings combined with the huge annual debt service payments to the USDA had combined to threaten the solvency of the FCA.

Since what he called the “soap opera” of the first sale attempt, Truckenmiller has said the FCA refused to pay Pyramid Brokerage Company the $77,000 fee critiqued by Monroe, but the entity has stuck with Pyramid Brokerage to try to sell the property again, only this time without Sampone as the broker, who has been replaced by Pyramid Brokerage Company’s principal real estate broker Peter W. Struzzi.

In her court brief challenging the first sale attempt for the property, Monroe had alleged that an affidavit from Struzzi filed as part of the FCA’s court petition was false because Struzzi had claimed the property had been listed through the nonexistent “Fulton County Multiple Listing Service.”

According to the new listing of the property, available at pyramidbrokerage.com, the property includes 4.5 acres of land in the Town of Johnstown on County Route 142, and the three buildings — Fulton Hall, Montgomery Hall and the 144-bed co-ed Raider Hall — which encompass 74,740 square feet of space. The posting encourages prospective buyers to contact Struzzi at 518-489-9199 ext 111 or by email at pstruzzi@pyramidbrokerage.com.

“The listing is live and it will be out there for about 30 days,” Truckenmiller told the FMCC Board of Trustees on Thursday. “I had a debrief with our broker a couple of days ago, and they are seeing some activity and interest and sending out information to people who are interested in that.”

Truckenmiller said the FCA will still have an important role to play for the college even after the dorms are sold.

“They still remain the fiscal agent for the student senate association, they still are our contract holder with our bookstore, and with our food service,” he said.

By Paul Wager