By TOM GIAMBRONI
LISBON - The downtown building that has become a safety concern for the village may see new life after it was purchased Tuesday at a delinquent property tax foreclosure sale.
Elkrun Township resident Jerry Mimna was the sole bidder for the building located at the corner of South Park Avenue and South Market Street, which houses the Happy Clipper II beauty salon and the former Sweet Jane's restaurant.
The bid was $12,211, representing back taxes, accrued interest and court fees, with a 10 percent down payment due by noon and the remainder upon transfer of the title, which is expected to take one to three months.
Mimna, who has a farm on Cream Ridge Road and owns rental and commercial property in Columbiana County, said he intends to put his construction background to good use by making the necessary repairs to the building, which he wants to continue renting.
"I'm thinking maybe this is an opportunity. We just want to make Lisbon a better town," he said, referring to local preservationist Stevie Halverstadt, who was present at the sale and has advised Mimna on what improvements would need to be made.
Mimna's first task upon taking ownership is to address the building's structural issues and then the tenant's needs. The two-story brick building drew the attention of the village in May after a councilman noticed several bricks had fallen out of the west wall, resulting in the decision to close the sidewalk for safety reasons.
Although some officials are concerned the building could collapse, Mimna does not believe that is in danger of happening. "The top is leaning in eight inches but it's been leaning in for 30 years," he said.
Stabilizing the west wall will be his first priority, along with other structural repairs, which Mimna said could cost $100,000 or more. "I don't see anything here that can't be accomplished," he said. Mimna also wants to renovate the upstairs apartments and resume renting them out. "I want to see the apartments open up again. People need a place to live," he said.
Halverstadt, who estimated the building is about 200 years old, put Mimna in contact with some of the historic building preservation experts she has dealt with over the years.
"I told him because I didn't want him to get into something and then not be able to fix it," Halverstadt said.
The building was first offered for sheriff's sale on July 15 but there were no bidders. Mimna said he became aware of the property's availability after reading about the sale.
Mimna does not know if it will turn out to be a wise investment but felt compelled to act. "We just want to see it saved," he said.
Village officials are excited Mimna stepped forward to purchase the building and are willing to work with him, including waiving the daily fine that could be imposed until the structural issues are addressed.
"We would never do that. He's showing good faith" by purchasing the building and wanting to fix it, said Alisa Gostey, the village's zoning clerk.
Village Solicitor Virginia Barborak wrote the county prosecutor's office, which handles delinquent property tax foreclosures, to say the village "will welcome a new entrepreneur and give them time to make the necessary repairs ..."