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Church, Active Hose dispute fire hall deal Firefighters won't repay down payment

A Niagara Falls church is embroiled in a battle with the Active Hose Fire Company after the church's attempt to buy a former fire hall failed.

At issue is a $10,000 down payment on the fire hall that Destiny Christian Church paid Active Hose before it spent a year in failed attempts to secure a mortgage.

The church wants the money back; the lawyer for Active Hose says the Fire Department won't give it to the church without a legal fight.

The Rev. Lou Perez, pastor of Destiny Church at 1905 Hyde Park Blvd., provided a handout to Town Board members during a meeting last week in which he said church members paid $1,000 and $9,000 in deposits to Realty USA, the real estate agency for the fire company, in March and April 2004.

The church approached more than 30 banks but couldn't get a mortgage loan on the fire hall at 3994 Lockport Road, Perez said in the handout. He said his members, showing full intention to purchase the former fire hall, wrote in a purchase contract that they were to get their deposits back if they couldn't obtain a loan.

That hasn't happened, Perez told Town Board members. He could not be reached Monday to comment.

Timothy J. Hourihan, manager of the commercial division at Realty USA, said Monday that the company has the $10,000 in an escrow account, but the attorneys for Active Hose and Destiny Christian Church need to resolve just who should get the money.

Damon A. DeCastro, attorney for Active Hose, said the cash belongs to the fire company. The members took the building off the market for a year while waiting for Destiny members to come up with a loan for the building.

DeCastro told The Buffalo News that if the church members decide to sue Active Hose, they should get ready for a fight.

Because the fire company has another pending sale on the building, and because that sale is for $100,000 less than the failed sale to members of Destiny Christian Church, DeCastro said he would be forced to sue for that loss. That would only happen if members of the church take the fire company to court, he said.

The church was going to pay $229,000 for the building, which up until February 2001 was used as a fire hall. At that time, the Town Board closed the Niagara 1 Fire Company after members of Active Hose charged that Niagara No. 1 firefighters were incompetent and posed a threat to themselves and the community.

Members of Active Hose decided to move out of their Lockport Road fire hall and purchase and move into the former Niagara No. 1 fire hall, also on Lockport Road, to be closer to the center of town.

Reached Monday to comment, Supervisor Steven C. Richards deferred any Town Board comments to Robert A. Clark, who will join the board next month. At a Thursday work session last week, Richards said he would like Clark to handle the matter.

Clark, a member of Active Hose, said, "I don't think that I should be put in that spot . . . It is a sale of a building between private entities."

DeCastro would not say who intends to purchase the former fire hall, other than to say the business would be a commercial enterprise.

He was adamant, however, in saying the fire company does not owe the church members a dime.
"The building sat there empty," he said, while members had to pay for heat, water and insurance on the structure.

e-mail: pkowalik@buffnews.com

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