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Showing posts with label Maranatha. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maranatha. Show all posts

Letter to the Editor: Wu Questions Rville's Maranatha Priorities

Written By Editor on 6/4/14 | 6/4/14

"Richmondville officials are demanding that Stella McKenna tell them about plans to sell her closed Maranatha gym in Warnerville."

What gall they have, to "demand", that Maranatha be sold, when in fact, it was they who stopped the gym from being sold, open for business, and from all debts, both to the local government and all B2Bs, being paid in full. With that said, before all of the 'Good Ole Boys', as well as their rable-rouser cohorts, start claiming that I neither had the capital nor a business plan to bail the club out, please let it be known that the investment that I made purchasing fitness equipment in my Sharon Springs location is both more advanced, as well as more costly and greater in both quality and quantity than what was in Maranatha, and, that I also paid for all of it up-front, so there is zero debt. In addition, not only am I renting a commercial location in Sharon Springs, I have also been paying bills on a domicile in Cobleskill for the past year, as well as paying for a residence in Sharon Springs for my whole family since April, since, they are now managing the that location. Lastly, I recently had a code review on the Grand Union building in Middleburgh done by a well-known architect from the city, Jim Lagone, specifically, to open my second location, as I was denied the opportunity to open a club in the Maranatha building. At least in Middleburgh, the mayor of that village--who was the one who invited me to so--and the supervisor of that town, both have the foresight to provide something beneficial for all of their constituents.

Everyone in the county needs to watch Schopeg or access the Richmondville town board minutes for December. They spent 45 minutes discussing asking the state for a waiver of the recapture agreement for the $2.3 million dollar grant, which is the same EXACT waiver which I asked them to ask the state for in September, October, and November, to which they refused each time, even though the state told them many times to ask for it as well. In fact, the state became so exasperated with the whole situation, that they asked them to only write one sentence, and one sentence only: "Please waive the recapture clause of the grant agreement so that Da-lai Wu can invest in, and re-open, the Maranatha Fitness Center". However, they would not ask for said waiver, which, totally protects only them and their constituents, since, after receiving the waiver, the state can never come after them for any part of the $2.3 million dollars. So how do they say 'no'? 

Please be advised that now that the town has the waiver, the club's founder can sell the building and the property to anyone, and does not have to notify anyone about anything. The town's 'demand' can, and should be, ignored. So why did the town turn down the opportunity to have their water bill and audit fees paid, as well as the village's electricity bill? Why did they turn down free office space on the undeveloped second floor of the club's building, which they could have built to their specifications, preferring to assume that the state would give them a grant for their offices, which they were subsequently denied last month? How is it that they believed that the waiver that the state and I both asked them to ask for, was different from that which they themselves asked for and received in December, and after the business model was already totally untenable--not to mention the fact that without a plan, carte blanche with regards to selling the property became a reality?

I lived though this past winter here in Cobleskill, and there is not a lot of things to do besides hibernate, nor, many places to recreate, even though, our state taxes pay for a huge facility in Cobleskill. However, we cannot access the gym, pool, fitness center, nor indoor tennis courts, which is a standard perk at other institutions where they rent facilities to the community at large to earn revenue for their own in-house community, and by doing so, they make real money, hand-over-fist. So what is up with the mentality in these two towns? Why does no one want to receive additional revenue, no strings attached, and to have all arrears paid in full? Why does no one there wish to provide for their neighbors in the community? And why, do residents even allow this situation to occur? 

IMPO, it's time to act. It's time to put the pedal to the metal, and make these 'Good Ole Boys' in both towns, act responsibly, and for the benefit for all. What do you think???

Da-lai Wu

Comptroller's Office: Town of Richmondville "Failed in Certain Key Areas" on Maranatha

Written By Editor on 5/14/14 | 5/14/14

The New York State Comptroller's Office has released its' official report on the Town of Richmondville's administration and handling of state grants in the construction of the $5.6 million Maranatha Family Center, located on Route 7 in the Town of Richmondville.

Its' contents were not favorable to the town, as it slighted elected officials for not properly overseeing the use of approximately $3 million in Restore NY and CDBG state grants, summarily concluding that although they properly administered some aspects of the grants, the town "failed in certain key areas." 

Failures that stemmed from the town's inadequate supervision of various consultants and grant fund allotments, which in one instance led to a duplicate payment of $75,000 being made that the town had to resolve this past spring with the Empire State Development Corporation. 

Additionally, the report slammed the town's lack of oversight into ensuring the project stayed within the original $3.8 million construction budget, as costs overran initial estimates by $450,000 or 12%. Furthermore, the town is likely to be saddled with $20,000 in costs to pay for a required audit the developer has yet to satisfy. 

Overall, after taking into account the project's current state of foreclosure and the facility's inactivity, the report surmised that, "with the facility closed, the local community is receiving no benefit from the grant moneys spent, and other projects throughout the State could have benefited more from these moneys."

The report can be viewed in its entirety here.

Maranatha's Future in Doubt

Written By Andrew Hartnett on 2/26/14 | 2/26/14

It has been nearly half a year since Marantha Family Center’s new facility on Route 7 closed its doors. The center has moved some classes to its former location on Elm Street in Cobleskill, but the future of the new 62,000 square foot building remains uncertain.

The most notable movement came in October of last year, when New York City investor Da-Lai Wu expressed interest in the facility. He came with an investment plan which he said involved expanding the facility, while also reopening the existing building as quickly as possible. However, Mr. Wu said the complex legal arrangements required for the transaction took longer than he had anticipated. “Records showed that the majority of MFC's revenue occurred from December through part of March,” said Wu in a letter to the editor of The Schoharie News. The duration of the proceedings cut into this important time and this delay, along with a number of other complaints Mr. Wu addressed in his letter, were what Mr. Wu said caused him to retract his offer.

Photo credit: Ed Munger,
Daily Gazette
Many of the problems with finding an investor stem from the conditions surrounding the facility’s initial construction. A large portion of the funding came from grants. The terms of these grants stipulate that only the current owner, Stella McKenna, can have any share of ownership. This means that, before any investment contracts can be signed for Maranatha, a waiver of this requirement must first be agreed to. Although the Town of Richmondville did file a request for such a grant, Mr. Wu said the request came too late to be effectve. He cited this delay as one of his primary concerns upon exiting from negotiations.

In addition to these legal barriers, any potential buyers of Maranatha also face many financial problems. The facility has approximately $31,000 in unpaid electric bills, which were the initial reason behind the closure. Marantha also faces an approximately $20,000 equipment audit of the facility’s construction grant. The property is also in foreclosure.

The financial liability and legal troubles facing potential investors are typically cited as the prime reasons for the apparent lack of interest. Mr. Wu, among others, has made the case that the Town of Richmondville has the ability, in at least some cases, to waive or delay these burdens. The Town, however, is reluctant to accept too much risk, which they say is out of fear that taxpayers will be left to pay the facility’s expenses, should the business fail again even with investment.

Now, as Mr. Wu begins pursuing another property interest in Middleburgh, Richmondville residents and membership holders are left with Marantha’s message, written on the sign in front of the new facility for most of its closure. “Reopening ASAP.”

Notice of Foreclosure Filed Against Maranatha Owner, Facility's Future in Flux

Written By Editor on 12/30/13 | 12/30/13

Only two years after opening the $5.3 million Maranatha Family Center in the Town of Richmondville, owner Stella McKenna was served with notice of foreclosure on December 16th by the New York State Business Development Corporation, according to documents published on the Schoharie County Clerk's Office. 

The notice reads "that an action has been commenced and is now pending in the Supreme Court upon the Verified Foreclosure Complaint of the above named Plaintiff against the above named Defendants for the foreclosure of a mortgage in the original principal amount of $1,850,000.00..." 

Maranatha's struggles were first publicized when the Village of Richmondville shut off their electric in early September following months of unpaid bills and thousands in late fees. It has since been discovered that the project had been in trouble from day one, owing everyone from state agencies to local banks and even the federal government. 

At stake for Ms. McKenna is not only the recently built physical fitness complex located on Route 7 in the Town of Richmondville, but Maranatha's original site on Elm Street in the Village of Cobleskill and two personal residences, all of which will be lost as the final grains of sand escape her already depleted hourglass.

New York City investor Da-Lai Wu had signaled renewed interest in obtaining the property after the Town of Richmondville approved a waiver request to Empire State Development to allow different ownership, but to date no deal has been reached between Mr. Wu and Ms. McKenna, leaving the partially publicly funded facility's future in flux.

Richmondville Town Board Unanimously Approves Maranatha Waiver Request, Wu Keeps Options Open

Written By Editor on 12/18/13 | 12/18/13

Just weeks after negotiations broke down between the Town of Richmondville and potential Maranatha investor Da-Lai Wu due to the municipality's stringent requirements that Mr. Wu had to meet in order for Town Supervisor Richard Lape to sign a waiver request to Empire State Development, it appears a deal may occur after all.

Despite publicly announcing that he was taking a step back from the project, Mr. Wu continued to pursue a potential deal - reaching out to local banks and state officials - while the facility's owner, Stella McKenna, was served with notice of foreclosure and seizure of equipment following years of tax delinquency and a chronic failure to regularly pay bills.

The result of which was a unanimous vote last Thursday evening by the Richmondville Town Board, on recommendation of Town Attorney Marvin Parshall Jr., to authorize Supervisor Lape to sign the necessary waiver request that both satisfies the Restore New York grant requirements and paves the way for Mr. Wu to take ownership of the $5.3 million project.

However, it still remains to be seen whether Ms. McKenna, who Mr. Wu has offered a deal to in exchange for her sub-leasing the property, decides to step aside now and allow Maranatha to reopen in a matter of one to two weeks, or if she will ride the storm to the inevitable end result - delaying any potential opening until mid-2014 at the earliest estimates.

Mr. Wu, who has planned a series of renovations upon his potential ownership - including the installation of hardwood floors on the dance and exercise room floors, plastic grid non-slip floors in the shower area and the addition of TRX and boxing equipment in the weight room - told the Schoharie News that he expects everything to be completed within the next week, or else he is scrapping all current plans and putting a down payment on a property in Middleburgh.

But with the Christmas holiday fast approaching, which Mr. Wu plans to spend working on opening a training facility somewhere within the county, gym members and residents alike in Richmondville might receive the gift of an occupied and operational Maranatha Family Center, allaying fears of another failed Guilford Mills and restoring a pivotal business in the Town's financial framework if all works out.

Poll: Mixed Results on Richmondville's Decision Regarding Maranatha

Written By Editor on 12/3/13 | 12/3/13

The latest Schoharie News poll shows sharp disagreement over the Town of Richmondville's recent actions regarding the Maranatha Family Center. The decision to block the efforts of potential investor Da-Lai Wu have caused a deep rift both within the Town and out.

The most recent poll has a narrow plurality supporting the Town's actions.

Do You Agree with the Town of Richmondville's Actions Regarding Maranatha?

Yes- 80: 48%
No- 66: 40%
Too early to tell- 19: 12%

The division will likely continue as talks have slowed down and the building sits vacant.

Department of Labor Files Tax Warrant on Maranatha Family Center for Failure to Pay Unemployment Contributions

Written By Editor on 11/30/13 | 11/30/13

The New York State Department of Labor's Unemployment Division has filed a $3,057 tax warrant against the Maranatha Family Center following its inability to pay $2,718 worth of contributions to the state unemployment fund and an additional $134 to the re-employment service fund over the last five quarters of business operation. 
Documentation filed with the Schoharie County Clerk's office shows Maranatha failed to pay over $2,000 in unemployment contributions during the fourth quarter of 2012 into the first quarter of 2013, an early red flag that in hindsight indicates the project's financial struggles from the beginning to pay its bills.
Although this tax warrant is the least of Maranatha's concerns, with its owner Stella McKenna facing both a summons of foreclosure and seizure of equipment notice, it reveals that the project's financial issues have stretched to the first months of operation and begs the question if Maranatha was ever economically sound to be in business.
Community Pipeline Meeting on Monday December 2, 2013 at 7PM inside of the Radez Elementary School Gym located on 319 Main Street, Richmondville, NY. The latest information on the proposed Constitution Pipeline from threats of eminent domain and legal efforts to landowner resistance and the pipeline company's safety record will be provided to the public. This advertisement is sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities and the Stop the Pipeline Schoharie Action Committee

Vote in Our New Poll: Was Richmondville Right Dealing with Maranatha?

Written By Editor on 11/25/13 | 11/25/13

Here is a chance for our readers to weigh in on the controversy surrounding the Maranatha project in Warnerville. Do you feel that the Town of Richmondville's actions were justified? Why or why not? The new poll is on the sidebar.

Community Pipeline Meeting on Monday December 2, 2013 at 7PM inside of the Radez Elementary School Gym located on 319 Main Street, Richmondville, NY. The latest information on the proposed Constitution Pipeline from threats of eminent domain and legal efforts to landowner resistance and the pipeline company's safety record will be provided to the public. This advertisement is sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities and the Stop the Pipeline Schoharie Action Committee

Maranatha EXCLUSIVE: Wu Backs Out of Project, Says Richmondville "Should be Ashamed"

After months of negotiations between the Town of Richmondville and New York City entrepreneur Da-Lai Wu concerning the $5 million Maranatha project, which current owner Stella McKenna was recently served notice of foreclosure on by the New York Business Development Corporation, it was decided Friday evening by Mr. Wu to end his perusal of the shuttered physical fitness center. 
Mr. Wu, who is the CEO and Director of Player Management with RUSH-N-CRUSH, originally came to the area to investigate the possibility of working in partnership with SUNY Cobleskill on developing local tennis programming by updating and using their tennis facilities based on his knowledge in the sport from both being a professional player and coach the past three decades. After estimating the college could repair their poor quality courts to U.S. Open standards with a price tag of $105,000, Mr. Wu expanded his horizons to visit neighboring facilities and to see if there was interest in the area for a tennis program when he discovered Maranatha in August.

Describing the troubled training facility's staff members as "awesome," while adding they are "people with the highest integrity," Mr. Wu soon learned of their plight and took an interest in Maranatha's troubles, which would reach critical mass when unpaid electric bills forced its initial closure, and would lead to Mr. Wu beginning his considerations of taking over the program with plans for extensive expansion of the project.

However, he immediately hit a brick wall - that being the Town of Richmondville government - with its public officials compiling a nine-point list of demands they expected Mr. Wu to meet before they agreed to sign a waiver request allowing his acquisition of the project, due because of the requirements attached to a $650,000 state grant Maranatha received.  
During this time he met with town officials over the extension of a $20,000 equipment audit, which he wanted to push back from next April to July, because he didn't want "all the debts to take capital" away from his investment during what he called the "critical market time for a fitness center," but the town wouldn't budge. And because of this, Mr. Wu estimated he lost anywhere from $120-150,000 in potential revenue because he could not open in October as he was originally planning and that he would now have to come up with approximately $250,000 to just "keep the place from sinking."
But that wouldn't be the end of it for Mr. Wu, who in an attempt to salvage the project, placed a request for a public meeting in October with the Town of Richmondville to discuss his proposed takeover of the facility. However, according to his account, Mr. Wu alleges that Richmondville Town Supervisor Richard Lape's response was that if he wanted a public meeting that he would have to be pay $15,000 first, presumably as collateral against one of Maranatha's outstanding debts, and then they would give him his meeting.
Shocked by the request, Mr. Wu contacted New York State Senator James Seward and after the legislator directly called the Richmondville Supervisor concerning the unusual $15,000 requirement for a meeting that it "disappeared," although a public hearing still wouldn't be held for three more weeks until the Tuesday after election day.
In the end, the "Town [of Richmondville] should be ashamed," said Mr. Wu as we concluded our comprehensive interview "because the whole community losses out." Despite his disappointment with how Maranatha turned out, Mr. Wu is currently involved in discussions with SUNY Cobleskill's PACE program to start a class in which he would instruct continuing education participants  on how to teach tennis for certification while additionally working to expand the college's program in the sport of his passion.  

The future of Maranatha is less certain now that Mr. Wu is out of the project and Ms. McKenna was served with foreclosure papers almost two weeks ago, leaving the Town of Richmondville with a $5 million building that could sit vacant for years while legal proceedings drag out and residents of both the Village and Town governments on the hook for over $50,000 worth of unpaid debts that they may very well have to pick up the tab for.

Maranatha Faces Potential Foreclosure, Loss of Physical Assets

Written By Editor on 11/21/13 | 11/21/13

Following months of public concern and speculation over Maranatha's financial situation, of which there was a general consensus that they were in dire straits, the Schoharie News has learned through researching a tip provided to us earlier in the week that owner Stella McKenna is close to losing control of her $5 million project because of millions in outstanding debts.
According to legal documentation posted on the Schoharie County Clerk's database, Ms. McKenna was served with not only a verified complaint by NBT Bank that seeks the collection of Maranatha's equipment and inventory due to their defaulting on a $50,000 note, but she also received a verified foreclosure complaint from the New York Business Development Corporation.
The latter complaint was filed on November 13th - last Wednesday - and stated Maranatha defaulted on the "conditions of the Note and Mortgage by omitting and failing to pay installments for principal and interest which were due on August 1, 2013, and each and ever month thereafter." The total sum of the project's debts to NYBDC are over $1.5 million, with it consisting of $1,482,062.57 in principal owed and the remainder being interest.

The day after on Thursday, November 14th, NBT Bank's complaint was filed and its contents show that the project defaulted on a roughly $50,000 note with the balance being 99% principal to interest owed. As part of the note's agreement in February, 2013, that provided NBT with collateral in case of Maranatha's failure to pay its bills - the local lender is seeking to legally acquire all equipment, records and inventory as a result of late September's default.

It is not known whether this will impact investor Da-Lai Wu's efforts to acquire the failed project or how its other interested parties might react to this substantial development, but one thing is for sure - Ms. McKenna's time to salvage what remains of her project, which she spent years putting together, has apparently run out.


Richmondville Sets Steep Requirements For Potential Maranatha Investor

Written By Editor on 11/14/13 | 11/14/13

New York City investor Da-Lai Wu made his case to the Town of Richmondville Tuesday morning on why he should be the man to turn around Maranatha and takeover the $5.3 million publicly funded facility that is currently sitting unoccupied on Route 7.
However, in order for any of that to occur, Mr. Wu needs Empire State Development to grant a waiver due to the regulations attached to the Restore New York grant the project received but that cannot happen until Mr. Wu meets nine requirements set by the Town of Richmondville, which holds the final say on whether a waiver request will be submitted or not.
The Schoharie News received a copy of the nine requirements earlier this afternoon in an e-mail from a concerned resident. In order for the Town of Richmondville to sign off on a waiver request, Mr. Wu must meet the following stipulations:
1. Approval from: a) all lenders; b) NYS Business Dev. Corp. c) SBA d) Co. IDA
2. Written consent and guarantee on all secondary grant disbursement agreements with the Town, and the Town's related security agreements.
3. Assurance of no damage to the building, equipment; and is ready for immediate operation.
4. $20,000 deposit to be held in escrow by the town for a mandated federal audit of the Community Development Block Grant of $650,000.
5. Payment of town's expense for hiring Orion Management Co. (currently $5,500; expected additional $5,000)
6. Payment of unpaid water bill to the town.
7. Power bill - to be handled by the Village of Richmondville.
8. Compliance with Orion Management Co.'s demands in preparing and submitting required employment records to meet federal regulations pertaining to the CDBG.
9. Compliance with Orion Management Co.'s demands in furnishing complete records pertaining to the expenditure of $75,000 for the purchase of the adjacent Chichester land, to meet the regulations of the RestoreNY grant.
It remains to be seen if Mr. Wu will be able to overcome the obstacles constructed by the Town of Richmondville and acquire Maranatha, obstacles he described as business unfriendly at Tuesday's meeting, but regardless the situation involving the multi-million dollar project and future ownership will continue to remain fluid.

Investor Makes Case for Maranatha Change

Written By Editor on 11/12/13 | 11/12/13

Interest in the Town of Richmondville's special board meeting on Maranatha and the potential for a new investor to come in reached such levels yesterday afternoon that the Town Court exceeded its occupancy level of 46 people and proceedings were moved to the Fire Department less then a half mile down Main Street to accommodate the approximately 75 residents that were in attendance.
With substantial debts including electric and water bills, an unpaid consultant and a roughly $20,000 equipment audit facing whomever acquires Maranatha, potential investor Da-Lai Wu said that it was a "no brainer" that all outstanding bills would have to be paid in advance of his New York City investment firm's potential takeover.
Mr. Wu, who addressed the audience of residents and politicians, told the crowd that in the future he needs assurance that the Town of Richmondville wouldn't continue what he summarized as a business unfriendly attitude towards the project he is seeking to acquire. Saying that if he wanted to expand Maranatha to include a tennis court or other buildings under his potential ownership that he should be able to do so without hindrance.
However, with the original project dependent on millions in state grants, and the strings that are attached, nothing can occur unless all parties involved are on board for a waiver by Empire State Development, which will need the cooperation of the thus far skeptical Town of Richmondville to be considered.
Stella McKenna, who currently owns Maranatha and is operating out of her secondary location in Cobleskill for the time being, said that "this needs to happen now" and that we "can't wait another week." State Senator Jim Seward concurred, stating that "if nothing happens, it remains an empty building."

Town of Richmondville Board to Meet November 12th on Maranatha

Written By Editor on 11/10/13 | 11/10/13

The Richmondville Town Board will be holding a special meeting on Tuesday, November 12th at 10:00 am to discuss the Maranatha Project and other town business. The meeting will be held at the Town Court and comes after months of public scrutiny over the process leading up to and after the project was shut down due to accumulating energy debts owed to Richmondville Power and Light.

Residents have raised concerns on Maranatha for a variety of reasons ranging from the project's misuse of state grants, which is currently under investigation by the Office of the State Comptroller, to its six month backlog of electric bills that despite the Village of Richmondville's best efforts could not be met under a budget plan.
For two months the publicly funded $5 million facility on Route 7 has sat in the dark, forcing Maranatha to resume activities in their old offices in Cobleskill while frustrating both customers and residents alike over the costly project's shuttered doors and faulty fiscal mismanagement, which might be leading to organizational changes within.
According to the project's official facebook page on Tuesday, November 5th: "We are still working with an investor and new management." Adding that "There are certain legal precedents that must be processed in order for the investor to come on board. Once the paperwork is finalized, a date for reopening will be set."
One can only assume that the content of Tuesday's board meeting will cover recent developments concerning a new investor and management team at Maranatha, which may or may not lead to the facility's eventual reopening. But whatever the case, there are still many unanswered questions that the public has the right to know on the project's series of financial missteps, fiscal mismanagement and questionable adherence to state grants.

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