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Lien to lose priority status

Published April 06. 2012 05:01PM

A lien against a Lehighton man who took legal action against Carbon County officials in 2006 is expected to lose its priority status on April 12.

During the county commissioners' meeting, the board voted 2-1 against authorizing the county solicitor, Daniel Miscavige, to revive the judgment against Thomas A. Zimmerman IV, which was filed by the late Judge David Addy on April 12, 2007.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, who pushed for the revival of the judgment and who was one of the two commissioners Zimmerman filed numerous suits against in an attempt to stop the demolition of a 108-year-old railhouse in Mahoning Township, cast the sole vote for authorizing Miscavige to begin the revival process.

The judgment against Zimmerman currently filed in the prothonotary's office, states that Zimmerman owes the county $8,114 for counsel fees the former board of commissioners incurred in 2006, when he filed multiple actions to stop the demolition at Packerton Yards.

Zimmerman, at the time, was the founder of the group Save Packerton Yards and led the charge against the county's plans to demolish the building and industrialize the 59-acre site between Mahoning Township and Lehighton. His attempts failed when Addy ruled that Zimmerman's claims were unfounded.

Following the vote, O'Gurek asked for a clarification from Miscavige regarding the discussion they had two weeks ago.

"At that time, you indicated that your recommendation was that it be revived and it was our responsibility to revive it," O'Gurek said. "And at that time you asked me for a copy of the judgment so you could begin working on it rather than waiting until April 12, which is the date that it lapses. Is that correct? Did you recommend to me that the right thing to do was revive it?"

Miscavige responded, stating that, "Well, generally yes. I mean if you have a judgment and if you're going to preserve your lien status and that was the intent of the judgment holder, then you would revive the judgment. Otherwise as I explained if it's not revived in the five-year period then you would lose your priority status."

O'Gurek then asked that the record reflect the solicitor's recommendation in the county minutes.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, then asked Joann Behrens, prothonotary, if there are other cases that have occurred where the judgments were not revived within the five-year period and just left go?

Behrens responded that there could be, but she doesn't keep records of that.

She did note that judgments are revived on a regular basis in her office to keep the priority statuses of the liens associated with the judgments.

Miscavige stressed that the board's decision not to revive the judgment does not mean that the county loses the lien on Zimmerman completely, just the priority status. If any other judgments are filed against Zimmerman after the 2007 judgment, then those liens would take priority over the county's lien.

He added that the county, if the commissioners so decide, can petition to revive the judgment at a later time.

The controversy between Zimmerman and O'Gurek and then Commissioner Charles Getz regarding the former railroad storehouse began in October 2006 when the Lancaster County pair, April Koppenhaver, owner of Mulberry Art Studios, and Bruce Clark, approached the board of commissioners to discuss the possibility of renovating the building into an art center and tourist attraction. They met with Nothstein on Oct. 6, 2006, the day after the demolition contract was awarded to Flynn Wrecking Inc. of Pottsville, formerly Flynn Demolition.

Following failed discussions with O'Gurek and Getz, who planned to industrialize the site to bring in higher paying jobs, the pair filed the first of three injunction requests. Their case was dismissed after a brief hearing on Oct. 19, in which Addy ruled that they had no standing in the county matter.

Shortly after, Zimmerman became involved and formed the group Save Packerton Yards. He unsuccessfully filed two requests for a temporary restraining order and injunction, as well as a stay order. He also organized an on-site tour for the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission to determine whether the building could be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. This visit was canceled because demolition had already started.

Demolition on the building began on Jan. 11, 2007 and was completed on Jan. 31, 2007.

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