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Aarons deal finalized; Shallenberger takes over building

| Friday, July 19, 2013, 6:45 p.m.

The sale of Connellsville's Aaron's building is complete and official.

Businessman Terry “Tuffy” Shallenberger Jr. is the new owner.

The building, located on North Pittsburgh Street, was a longtime furniture store in the city. The store closed in 1978, and the building caused the city many problems as it deteriorated over the years.

Eventually, the city took ownership of the structure.

Connellsville Mayor Charles Matthews and Councilman Brad Geyer said the sale was complete on Thursday. Matthews said Shallenberger had taken the city's locks off the building on Friday morning and had replaced them with his own.

“I talked to him today,” said Matthews. “The plans are to restore and remodel everything like it was made. (But the) engineers have to get in and see how good or bad things are. He's enthusiastic,” Matthews said of Shallenberger.

Several attempts to reach Shallenberger on Friday were unsuccessful.

Connellsville Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Michael Edwards was happy with the news.

“That's great news,” said Edwards.

He said Shallenberger, unlike many who have made their money and left, has put his money back into the community.

Shallenberger has been part of the Connellsville Canteen Coffee Shop project, a structure along West Crawford Avenue, next to Artworks.

Edwards said the move may free up $200,000 in funds, set aside since 2008 from the Community Development Block Grant program. The city had designated those funds for the demolition of the building. The city may now go back and use those funds at its discretion for other projects.

He said those funds were to be used in three years, but the state, being made aware of the possible sale of the building, has allowed the city a total of five years.

According Edwards, the redevelopment authority will now present a list of the possible uses for the funds to city council. Then a public hearing, probably before the Aug. 21 council meeting, will be held to discuss which projects to forward for state approval.

Edwards said the redevelopment of the business district, of which an Aaron's building project would become a part of, has been growing stronger, since it was started four years ago.

In May, council approved an agreement of sale that would transfer the property to Shallenberger on the condition that he either restores, renovates or demolishes the building within 18 months of the property transfer.

Shallenberger bought the property from the city for $1.

In June, the city agreed to spend $25,000 to purchase different parcels of land surrounding the building at the corner of Apple and Pittsburgh streets and included them in the sale of the building for the $1 transaction price.

Council transferred the $25,000 for the parcel purchases from the city's parking authority fund to the general fund.

Matthews said the transfer was a one-time thing and would more than likely not be replaced to the parking authority fund.

“If we couldn't have acquired that adjacent property, Tuffy wouldn't take the (Aaron's) building,” said Geyer on Friday, crediting the mayor for his work on the deal.

This week, council agreed to pay any unpaid and delinquent real estate taxes on building in the amount of $6,539.72 to the Fayette County Tax Claim Bureau. That money was designated to come from the parking fund as well.

City officials said the sale of the property from the city to Shallenberger was free and clear of any tax liens, but it was discovered through title transfer that there were delinquent real estate taxes. The city is responsible for those taxes since they were already submitted to the tax claim bureau.

Also as part of the resolution, council approved payment of the realty transfer taxes in the amount of $655.96 to the Office of the Recorder of Deeds of Fayette County.

Matthews said he believes the city will be getting the $6,000 back for the county and school district taxes.

”I thought we had been exonerated,” said Matthews. “We're checking with the county and the school district now.”

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kpolacek@tribweb.com or 724-626-3538.

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