Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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April 5th, 2012

The Apollo Saga Continues

They told us they were going to bring us a big box chain and a lot more to the site of the former Apollo Plaza. They told us they were going to deliver much needed sales tax revenue. They even told us they had the deal all done.

The new legislature worked hard to approve the proposal that was filled with controversy left by the old legislature. But, what our new legislature did not know was that their efforts were a waste of time. Last week the deal came to a quick ending as the developers mysteriously pulled out of the deal.

Cynics claimed all along that Chancellor-Livingston’s Michael Kaplan and Henry Zabatta did not have a deal to bring us a department store, but their proposal seemed too good for anyone to pass up.

Both Kaplan and Zabatta are credible developers and middlemen with proven track records. They were the original people who brought us the Motor Club, and they know how to work the political system and IDA to get what they want and need.

With the Concord project appearing to move full steam ahead, one would have thought a major big box chain would have really wanted to jump on the bandwagon. But, sources close to the deal said such was not the case, so Kaplan and Zabatta had no alternative but to bailout.

Also gone is the controversial plan to build a YMCA at the former site of the Jerry Lewis Cinemas. Critics like former County Legislator David Sager questioned why the YMCA was even offered the property. There were accusations of wrongdoings because Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini’s wife Linda works for the YMCA and State Senator John Bonacic. It was Bonacic who helped to secure a grant for the YMCA.

The legislature now needs to decide once again what it will do with the Apollo property.

Legislator Ira Steingart, who heads the IDA and Economic and Development Committee, has publicly indicated he favors it going to developer Butch Resnick who made a previous proposal to construct a supermarket, retail shops and a truck stop on the site.

Resnick is a very credible developer, and does what he says he will. He recently renovated and opened Bernie’s Holiday Mountain Restaurant, and has purchased the Lodge in Rock Hill. Despite all this, Steingart is jumping the gun.

The process must be opened up to all developers interested in the site. At the end of the day, I am sure Resnick will win the bid, because of his credibility and connections.

The one good thing that came out of the Apollo fiasco was how the new legislature approached the project. Legislators Cindy Gieger and Cora Edwards must be applauded for their outspokenness.

An amendment to the Apollo resolution submitted by Edwards specifically stated that proceeds of the sale or lease be safeguarded in an account to pay off the bond debt still owed on the property through 2018. This is something the previous legislature never even thought of.

Edwards told me, “Under the present circumstances, we are being given an opportunity to look at the properties from a fresh point of view, rather than just playing the hand we were dealt from the previous legislature. It is important that any future transaction protects the interests of Sullivan County taxpayers and our public assets.”

Perhaps they will bring back Waldbaum’s and White’s Department Store.

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