LOCKPORT -- The mortgage foreclosure crisis roiling the nation's economy seems to have passed over Niagara County, but a candidate on the Nov. 4 election ballot and a prominent local attorney are among those whose homes are scheduled for auction in the coming weeks.
Court personnel recently posted notices on a public bulletin board in the Niagara County Courthouse announcing auctions on the foreclosed homes of Paula Banks Dahlke, Republican candidate for 138th District Assembly member, and Niagara Falls attorney Paul A. Grenga.
Both Banks Dahlke and Grenga said Monday that they expect to take steps to cancel the auctions and save their homes. The Grenga auction is set for Nov. 12 and the Banks Dahlke auction for Nov. 13.
"Millions of people have run into this problem," said Banks Dahlke, who is challenging Assembly incumbent Francine DelMonte, D-Lewiston. "Maybe I can do something about it [if elected]."
The total number of home foreclosures in Niagara County is decreasing, according to figures compiled by the Niagara County clerk's office.
In 2006, there were 557 foreclosures in the county. That number fell to 511 in 2007, and through the first nine months of this year, the total was 344. At that pace, this year's total will be 459.
But that still means many Niagara County homeowners are having trouble making their mortgage payments. In the case of Banks Dahlke and her husband, Charles Dahlke, a medical emergency and two lost jobs led to them to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection last year.
Grenga, who also is Lewiston village attorney, said unsuccessful investments devastated his net worth.
Banks Dahlke and her husband owe $106,204 on a Hartland house assessed at $94,500, public records show. Grenga and his wife, Laurie, owe $206,684 on a Lewiston home with an assessed value of $159,000.
Banks Dahlke said she and her husband have their own architecture and design business, but because of heavy debts left over from her unsuccessful Assembly campaign of 2004, both got second jobs.
Banks Dahlke said she was hospitalized for 11 days in May 2006 and after her release, doctors wouldn't let her return to work at Marrano Homes, which finally let her go in December 2006. Meanwhile, her husband lost his job at Barden Homes.
"We were keeping up with our other bills, but not our home bill," Banks Dahlke said.
The foreclosure order was signed by State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. in May 2007, but bankruptcy forestalls foreclosure. The Dahlkes were released from bankruptcy about two months ago.
Banks Dahlke said she didn't know about the auction until The Buffalo News asked her about it. She said her attorney told her that the mortgage holder, HSBC Mortgage Corp., was not legally required to send her notice.
Banks Dahlke and her husband are to receive a reinstatement letter, which their attorney, Denis A. Kitchen Jr., said gives them a certain amount of time to pay enough on their mortgage to make it current. That would cancel the auction.
Grenga's house was to have been auctioned Sept. 12, but the day before that, attorney James C. Roscetti obtained a temporary restraining order from Kloch preventing that. Roscetti said Grenga was trying to refinance his mortgage. Kloch ruled Sept. 29 that the auction must go forward, but Grenga said he's still confident he will be able to refinance before Nov. 12 and save his home.
"Paul got victimized by the credit markets. Refinancing is not a high priority right now," Roscetti said.
"Sometimes I'm up. Sometimes I'm down," Grenga said. "Call me tomorrow. I'll be up again."