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Mystery Bidder
Comes Forward

By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY —February 28, 2003– The mystery bidder on the Darbee Lane firehouse is no longer a mystery.
Sabrina Artel stepped up at Monday’s meeting of the Liberty village board to assure its members as well as the public that she wants to buy the #2 firehouse, and she wants to pay taxes.
Since Liberty’s three fire companies merged and formed one department in a new building, rumors have been swirling over the fate of the empty structures.
And never have those rumors been so rampant than the past few months when residents have heard tales of a chicken processing plant, a non-profit art studio, and heaven knows what else.
At an earlier meeting this month, Herman Lee, one of the original two bidders on the Darbee Lane firehouse, stopped by to explain to folks that he was hoping to open a gourmet kitchen to cook up chickens for high-end restaurants. He doesn’t intend to process anything in Liberty, he assured the board.
And Artel appeared Monday to assure the board that stories – circulating since a newspaper reported in early February that she was looking to set up a nonprofit corporation in the firehouse – are completely untrue.
“I’ve never spoken to a reporter,” she said. “I’m here tonight to state that, as I’ve always said, I intend to pay taxes.”
Artel has had her bid in on the firehouse since November, and she pledged to match a $70,000 promise made by Lee, even putting up cash for the deal.
According to Liberty Mayor Ed Pankonin, the village is looking to dispel the myths that have come out since the firehouse went up for sale. That’s why Lee was invited to the Feb. 3 meeting, and Artel is not being overlooked.
Lee’s invitation “wasn’t a slight against you,” Pankonin said.
Pankonin suggested the village send information on the firehouse to local real estate agent Gene Barbanti for review, allowing him to give a suggestion of the building’s worth for the village’s guidance and a chance to market the structure to would-be buyers.
Trustee Tom Sprague suggested the board go a step further, allowing any broker within the Village of Liberty to market the firehouse to their clients.
Bids will be collected 30 days after publication is made of the firehouse’s availability, and the village will then have the chance to review their options.
“I think it will give us the opportunity to look it over and give it to a group with the best benefit to the village,” Sprague said.
The village will put the Number 2 Firehouse out on the market along with the Number 3 Firehouse, currently the home of the Liberty Youth Center.
Though several village residents asked the board at its earlier February meeting to consider gifting the latter structure to the youth center, the organization has been leasing with the option to buy, an option they haven’t acted on, according to Pankonin.
“Our first priority right now is what is our future budget,” Deputy Mayor Stephen Lavelle noted.
If the best option is to allow the Youth Center to keep the firehouse, that will be done, he said – if not, the village needs to sell the excess property.
The board is expected to reveal its final procedure for marketing the firehouses next week. Already, another bid has come in on the Darbee Lane structure from an anonymous bidder, and more are expected by the village.

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