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Tax sale deadline looms over Masonic Temple

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Faced with having to pay back taxes by Monday, the crumbling Masonic Temple’s owner could still get a reprieve.

ICA Renovations III LLC, the Marietta investment firm that holds the mortgage for the downtown structure, could step in and prevent owner Garrett L. McCarthy from losing the building at 242 Washington St.

The investment firm’s principal, Brian A. Bromka, could protect his interest by paying off the $23,439.46 in back taxes by Monday’s 4 p.m. deadline, said city Comptroller James E. Mills.

Mr. Mills has been communicating with Mr. Bromka through email messages to see whether he knows about the situation and what, if anything, he plans to do about it.

“He indicated that he was aware of it and he hasn’t made up his mind,” Mr. Mills said.

Declining to comment, Mr. Bromka referred all questions to Mr. McCarthy, who has not responded to several phone calls.

Mr. McCarthy, a Henderson artist who wants to convert the century-old landmark into an educational and performing arts center, acquired the property two years ago after purchasing its tax sale certificate from the investment firm.

He also has a $17,500 mortgage with ICA Renovations on the building. If the taxes are not paid, Mr. Bromka would “lose recourse” and would no longer be able to pursue foreclosure proceedings on the mortgage, Mr. Mills said.

Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Bromka or someone else must pay the $23,439.46 in delinquent taxes or the city could end up taking control of the structure.

On Wednesday night, a cherry picker was dropped off at the property and was still parked there unused late Thursday afternoon. Also on Thursday, a small group of people, led by local attorney Joseph W. Russell, toured the property. They, too, would not comment. It was unclear why they were there.

If no one steps forward, the city would have to decide what to do with the building. Demolishing it remains a possibility. In September, the city’s code enforcement office banned the public from entering the structure, saying it was unsafe because pieces of the exterior were falling off.

So what happens if the taxes and mortgage become current?

Mr. McCarthy would then have three years before the tax sale certificate issue could come up again, Mr. Mills said.

Over the past two years, Mr. McCarthy has been trying to drum up support by talking with arts organizations and college and university officials throughout the state to see if they might be interested in creating an arts center in it, which he has estimated would cost about $5 million.

Delinquent owners have two years after a tax sale to redeem their properties before the tax sale certificate’s owner can request taking ownership of the property.

To do so, they must pay all outstanding taxes and any interest and penalties. The city imposes a 1 percent-per-month interest charge on properties, which is then given to the tax sale certificate holder, along with the money paid for the certificate, if the property owner pays in full.

The city has scheduled the tax sale certificate auction at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

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