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Fort Drum Vehicle Storage building to go on auction block

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Now that Ruby “Charlene” Williams is out of the picture, the second highest bidder at the Oct. 10 public auction has expressed interest in buying the former Fort Drum Vehicle Storage warehouse on West Main Street.

Donald M. Hunt, a professional diver and certified scuba instructor who owns Hunt Underwater Specialties of Watertown, approached Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham on Monday about his interest in the building at 753 Rear W. Main St. after hearing that Ms. Williams has gone missing and would not proceed with her plans to buy it.

The Watertown City Council will most likely put the warehouse up for sale during a second public auction, which could be held as early as January, Mr. Graham said. Council members may set a date for the auction at Monday night’s meeting.

But Mr. Hunt hopes he can get the building for less than the $125,000 bid that Ms. Williams submitted on Oct. 10.

She and Mr. Hunt went back and forth on a series of bids until he dropped out at $120,000.

“I’d like to get a better price,” he said, adding that a third bidder stopped at $60,000. The building is assessed at $205,700.

He plans to use the building for storage for his diving equipment and for “some other things I have in mind,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Ms. Williams, the chief financial officer for Fort Drum Vehicle Storage, became interested in the warehouse after her bosses, JoAnne Sanchez-Norquist and John S. Norquist, lost the building for failing to pay $17,776.37 in back taxes.

But then Ms. Williams failed to arrive for the closing at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Council members agreed to extend the original Nov. 16 closing when she did not show up that day.

City officials are perplexed that she put down the $12,500 deposit for the warehouse, which she has now lost.

In recent days, council members figured the deal with Ms. Williams was going to fall through after hearing that she was evicted from her rental property at 223 LeRay St., Black River.

On Nov. 19, town Justice George E. Mead III signed an eviction notice for Ms. Williams and her husband, Michael, after they accumulated $6,900 in unpaid rent from September through the end of this month. They were ordered to pay the $6,900 in back rent and $1,598.96 in attorney and court fees to landlords Jesse and Tara Lennox, according to court documents.

Council members also learned Ms. Williams is a fugitive from justice in the state of Florida for a 2006 probation violation involving convictions for third-degree grand theft and distributing a forged instrument the year before. She pleaded no contest to those charges and received a sentence of 18 months of probation, according to St. Johns County court documents.

Fort Drum Vehicle Storage was formed in 2005 to serve deploying soldiers in need of a place to store their vehicles. The warehouse previously housed about 90 vehicles for the company until it was lost to back taxes.

The company is also in financial turmoil, facing $92,443 in back taxes on five properties it owns in the county and a $28,000 loan owed to the Watertown Local Development Corp.

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