More to Life than Softball!
Mayor Persing has discovered that there is more to life than softball, certainly when it comes to paying for damage to private property caused by his contractor during the recent $400,000 extension to his palatial Hall of Fame.
A house in Race St. belonging to Linda Metzger, and which she shares with her disabled husband, sustained severe damage during demolition of an adjoining property. Despite clear evidence of negligence including a video, Persing refused to accept liability, and arrogantly dismissed all claims for compensation.
Last year we covered the story in an article entitled “Softball, Not as We Know It“, with a sequel published in September – “More Hardball in Race Street“. We can now report that finally, the saga would seem to have reached a satisfactory conclusion.
Linda had exhausted all her savings on temporary repairs to her home, and was in no position to finance the necessary restoration work. Local attorneys Kymberley Best and Timothy Bowers took on her case and raised a lawsuit against Persing’s ASA, Seiple architects and Steinbacher demolitions of Williamsport.
The outcome is covered by a non disclosure agreement, and Linda Metzger has been forbidden from speaking about it. Persing himself, uncharacteristically refused to comment when it was raised at a recent City meeting. What we do know is that his insurers took matters into their own hands, a settlement (apparently acceptable to both sides) was negotiated, and the case was taken off the roll at the County Court.
Work to repair the damaged home is now proceeding. Already the roof has been repaired and extended, and now shuttering is in place for a new side support wall.
A local demolition contractor who watched the video was horrified. He had a number of questions:
- Why were the beams and connecting boards on the porch roof not detached from the dividing wall and removed by hand prior to the demolition of the porch itself?
- How could an experienced contractor appear to make such an elementary mistake?
- Was the contractor acting under instruction?
Evidence to support a possible conspiracy came from documents at City Hall. Joe Bartello, then Director of the City Code Office, had been surprised to receive initial plans from Persing’s architects, clearly showing a parking lot where Linda’s house stood, as well as a second parking lot across the street, on private land containing a house belonging to one of her neighbors, the same neighbor to whom Persing is reported as having made a derisory purchase offer of $500 for his property, along with a threat that he would take it off him anyway if he declined to accept. Bartello insisted the plans be changed to accurately reflect current dispositions.
Persing had previously offered 68-year-old Linda Metzger $10,000 for her house, even though she had recently purchased it for $50,000 and had it mortgaged for $40,000, and even though he had just paid full market value of $76,000 to her neighbors, the Shipman’s, who lived next door in #325. Not surprisingly, this offer was declined.
There is little doubt that had more serious damage been caused to Linda’s house, then the City would have stepped in and had it condemned, and thereby given Persing the extra parking lot he coveted so badly.
Persing Outraged by “Anti-Sunbury People”
Persing was said to have been outraged when he received notice of the lawsuit. He berated everyone present in City Hall that there was no way that those “anti-Sunbury people” would see one cent of “his” (not the ASA’s) money. He truly believed it was his right to throw people out into the street and turn their house into a parking lot for the greater good of the ASA, and that he was actually the wronged party in the whole affair.
His case appeared hopeless from the get go. It would seem that his insurers, recognizing this fact, took it out of his hands, and negotiated directly with the claimants. It is difficult to imagine the imposition of a gag order had Persing actually won the case. Far from it! News of his victory would have been proclaimed throughout his kingdom, as a stark warning to those who would seek to oppose him in the future. However, this order would be a convenient way in which to hide the embarrassment of his defeat.
We also find it difficult to envisage a scenario where the Metzgers’ attorneys would have settled out of court for anything less than the full cost of remediation.
Subsequent to such a reversal, it would be normal practice for the insurers to seek recovery from the demolition contractor. It is interesting that, according to Code Office records, the contractor quoted this job at around half the going rate they normally receive for demolition work from the City. Is it a coincidence that they were subsequently awarded the contract to demolish the fire-damaged properties in Chestnut St. last year – at $75,000 an exceedingly generous amount for the work involved, paid out of city taxes, and one for which, it appears, no other bids were received?
Whatever their settlement amount, there is no sum of money which could adequately compensate Linda and Bill for the trauma to which they had been subjected. They had been cruelly forced to endure one of the most severe winters in living memory in a house with an uninsulated, damp and unprotected side wall, and with a bedroom so cold that large icicles frequently formed on the wall.
The one good thing to come out of this debacle is the clear message that little people can triumph over bullying and harassment. Linda has shown the way, and where she has led others must follow. Although the City themselves were not directly involved in this particular case, there is a common link.
We do know there is much more injustice in Sunbury, and would strongly urge anyone who has been on the receiving end of similar treatment, from the Persing administration or anyone associated with them, to contact Kymberley Best or Tim Bowers immediately for a confidential consultation. Telephone 570-495-4716.