Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

November 16, 2012

Dry-clean settlement still in the works

By Joyce M. Miles
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A settlement agreement between the city and the former owner of the Peters Dry Cleaning facility should be finalized at the end of this month.

The sides were in City Court on Thursday, technically for sentencing of Patrick McFall on his Oct. 11 guilty plea to a single building code violation tied to debris at 316 Willow St.

Instead, Judge Thomas DiMillo heard an argument from McFall’s attorney why a pending settlement agreement should compel McFall to pay less than the roughly $40,000 he owes the city in back taxes on the ruined building.

Last month McFall agreed, with his guilty plea on the code charge, to sign a confession of judgment committing him to pay the city a sum roughly equivalent to what he owes the city in unpaid property tax and utility charges dating back to 2008. That amount is approximately $40,000.

Defense attorney Jon Ross Wilson said after court Thursday that he presented an argument for a lesser judgment. He declined to say how much less, or state the grounds for his request, other than to say the request is driven by a “few” developments since mid-October.

Late last month, 316 Willow’s new owner-of-record, Eddie Person of West Avenue, filed suit against McFall to get the $1 building sale voided and the deed returned to McFall, due to a number of environmental issues that Person claims McFall did not disclose to him.

Simultaneously, City Attorney John Ottaviano said his office would try to seize 316 Willow in order to facilitate its cleanup. A rubble pile where a portion of the facility collapsed last year is asbestos-tainted, and the property is under a state environmental conservation cleanup order due to soil contamination from a toxic dry cleaning chemical.

In court Thursday, assistant City Attorney Matthew Brooks confirmed the city is moving ahead with property seizure. He also pledged that, in the event the sale to Person is voided and the deed goes back to McFall, the city would not pursue any more code charges against McFall.

DiMillo adjourned McFall’s sentencing to Nov. 29, when it’s expected he’ll approve a final settlement agreement between the parties. McFall did make a $5,000 down payment on the settlement Thursday as DiMillo ordered last month; and DiMillo said the remainder of McFall’s sentence will consist of three years of probation, rather than a one-year conditional discharge.

Basically, according to Wilson, the settlement agreement will require McFall to make monthly payments to the city until the judgment is paid off, and under a conditional discharge McFall faced the possibility of being jailed if he missed a payment during that first year.

With probation, he said, McFall will submit to “supervision outside the court” and will have to abide by conditions of probation for the length of the term.