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In rare move, county legislators vote no to $100K request for motel purchase

By Joanne Beck

In less than a minute Wednesday, four Genesee County legislators did something that is rarely done during a committee meeting, likely ending the current plans of UConnectCare to purchase property on the outskirts of the county and convert it to transitional housing.

The legislators, led by Gary Maha, voted no to support UConnectCare CEO John Bennett’s request for $100,000 to purchase The Attican motel on Route 98.

Bennett’s agency was prepared to offer $800,000 for the property.

Gary Maha
Genesee County Legislator Gary Maha
Photo from county website

“I'm concerned with regards to this resolution. One is the assessment -- (the assistant county treasurer) checked on that for real property tax purposes. His property is assessed at $293,000. And yet the purchase price was three times as much as the assessment. Even with the adjustments, it's going to be assessed around $300,000. I have a concern with that,” Maha said during the Ways & Means session at the old County Courthouse. “And I know several residents in the area are concerned about the clientele presiding in that hotel, there’s children living in that area that back up the motel, and there’s an elementary school not too far down the road from that location, so I’m going to vote no to this resolution.”

Bennett had made the pitch during Monday’s Human Services meeting, and that committee passed along the resolution to Wednesday’s Ways & Means Committee for further consideration after Legislator Marianne Clattenburg spoke against the idea.

Among her concerns were the purchase offer of $800,000 for a property that was said on Monday to be assessed for $297,000, and would become nonprofit real estate to be taken off the tax rolls. She also questioned the value of the project and plan to turn yet another building into housing for people struggling with addiction, she said. 

UConnectCare, formerly Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, has other residential sites, and the agency doesn't seem to be gaining any ground with long-term successes, she said. 

While the majority of these resolutions typically get a yes from every legislator sitting on a committee before it goes to the full county Legislature for a final vote, this one was stopped in its tracks. 

Fellow committee members, legislators Gregg Torrey, John Deleo and Committee Chairwoman Clattenburg also voted no to the resolution for the same reasons as those stated by Maha, they said. That halts it from going any further. 

On Monday, Bennett said that if he did not receive the $100,000, that he would not pursue the plan to buy the building. He has $700,000 in funding now but wanted to get the county’s support, he said. 

Earlier Wednesday, Attica Village Mayor Nathan Montford said that he had felt a bit “blindsided” by the prospective motel purchase since he learned of it via social media and not directly from GCASA officials, he said.

“I wish I had found out from them first,” he said to The Batavian. 

 The Attican “gets utilized for a multitude of events,”  he said.  “I’d like to see it kept the way it is.” 

He didn’t want to comment too much before discussing the matter with Bennett, who apparently reached out to Montford after the initial meeting with county officials went public. Montford believed that they would be talking on Thursday afternoon. 

“There was some backlash,” Montford said, from both residents and businesses bringing forth more questions about the venture. “I have more questions. It’s worrisome when something like this gets brought to  us.”

One concern he has is that “I don’t believe our village has the resources” for the proposed planned use of the motel, he said.

Of course, with the resolution defeated, it all may be moot now. The Batavian reached out to Bennett after the meeting for response to Wednesday’s vote and asked about his plans for transitional housing and/or other types of programs and services. 

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