Last updated: February 27. 2013 11:59PM - 2580 Views
By - jandes@civitasmedia.com - (570) 991-6388



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Hazle Township businessman James Lagana has again convinced the court to delay a sale of his tax-delinquent commercial properties.


Lagana owes a combined $291,185 in school, county and municipal taxes on the five affected properties dating back to 2009, records show.


Properties are supposed to be auctioned if taxes have gone unpaid for two years. To get out of a sale, property owners must pay taxes owed, file for bankruptcy or convince a judge to grant more time.


A special auction was scheduled for Wednesday, but county Judge Michael T. Vough issued an order postponing the sale to April 1.


Lagana’s legal counsel argued more time was needed to resolve property survey issues required to refinance the five properties, said John Rodgers, head of Northeast Revenue Service LLC, the county’s tax claim operator. Rodgers said this information was conveyed during a Monday court hearing conducted by phone.


Vough’s order says Lagana must provide the court with a status on the refinancing during another telephone hearing to be held at 8:45 a.m. March 19. Lagana’s attorney must provide a phone number before this teleconference to the court and all interested parties, the judge said.


Northeast Revenue has been pushing for a special tax auction solely for Lagana’s properties because of the amount owed and Lagana’s continued requests for delays.


The five properties have a combined assessed value of $4.3 million and include commercial office and retail buildings on the Airport Beltway, including the Beltway Commons and Laurel Professional Center.


Last spring, the court issued an order in stating in bold print “no further continuances will be granted.”


A special auction had been scheduled for January, but it was pushed off until February after Lagana argued he should receive “one final” extension because he has reached a refinancing agreement that is near closing.


The refinancing will allow Lagana to pay all back taxes and other outstanding liens, including debts to the Internal Revenue Service, Fidelity and Deposit Insurance Co., the Greater Hazleton Joint Sewer Authority and the Hazleton Municipal Authority, Lagana told the court.


Lagana said he’d be forced to file for bankruptcy if his request for additional time is rejected. The county and others owed money would not all be paid if the properties go to tax sale, a mortgage foreclosure sheriff sale or bankruptcy, he said.


In exchange for the delay, Lagana agreed Northeast Revenue won’t be required to spend money on another round of tax sale advertising and lien-holder notifications. However, Northeast Revenue representatives say they might be forced to readvertise to comply with legal requirements if the April 1 sale also is continued.

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