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Melody Fair became the property of North Tonawanda Monday when the city took possession of the entertainment facility for failure to pay $230,000 in delinquent real estate taxes.

The action came after repeated attempts by the city to collect mounting taxes and repeated promises by the facility's owners to work out an agreement.

City employees padlocked the fence surrounding the 14-acre entertainment complex on Niagara Falls Boulevard after Niagara County Court Judge Amy J. Fricano signed a judgment giving the city ownership of the 40-year-old entertainment center

The judgment was against the owner of record, Augusto International Corp., with Rudy Bersani as principal. Ed Smith, impresario of Melody Fair, is owner of a promotion company, In the Round, that has operated the show tent for 14 seasons. The transfer of ownership to the city became effective immediately when City Attorney Henry F. Wojtaszek filed Judge Fricano's order with the county clerk in Lockport.

Wojtaszek then directed city employees to go to Melody Fair and padlock the facility. "No trespassing" signs were posted around the premises. Wojtaszek said Monday that the city will advertise Melody Fair for sale on the Internet and in national and international entertainment trade journals in hopes of selling it before the 1999 summer season. Melody Fair is not open at this time of year.

Smith said last night that he would hold a news conference sometime today. He did not comment on the city's action.

Melody Fair opened as a Western New York show tent years ago, booking nationally known acts and entertainers.

But back taxes began accumulating more than a decade ago. While, Smith agreed to a number of tax pay-back agreements, they were never fully honored, according to City Treasurer Leslie J. Stolzenfels.

Over the past few years, the Common Council has tried repeatedly to collect, without success.

The city filed for foreclosure in Niagara County Court after the latest round of negotiations failed to produce a settlement.

Melody Fair filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Buffalo, which automatically stayed the city's bid to foreclose.

However, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Carl L. Bucki agreed with City Attorney Wojtaszek after a court hearing Oct. 26 that the property is not worth the amount of back taxes owed the city, and dismissed the company's bankruptcy petition, lifting the stay.

Wojtaszek said that if advertising Melody Fair for private sale is not successful, a public auction will be scheduled probably in January.

If the property goes to public auction, an opening bid of $230,000, the amount of the tax delinquency, would be required, Wojtaszek said.

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