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The eagerness of the Finizio administration to unload the Lighthouse Inn back into private hands notwithstanding, too many red flags are flapping to move forward with the sale to the lone developer who submitted a bid. New London acquired the property in 2013 through a tax foreclosure.
First off, the bid did not comply with the rules. The specifications set minimum bids at $500,000. None were received. Anthony D. Acri III did submit a bid - the only bid - offering $100,000. The city should disqualify it as not meeting the requirements. It is possible the city could have received bids above $100,000 if there had been no minimum requirement in place.
Secondly, Mr. Acri has no experience developing the kind of inn/resort envisioned for the Lighthouse Inn. It will be a major challenge to undertake an historic restoration of the 112-year-old building - as required by the sale provisions - and come up with a business model that succeeds where other recent owners failed.
In 2010, Mr. Acri submitted a $1.25 million bid for the property at auction, only to withdraw it a few months later. With only $100,000 tied up in the purchase, Mr. Acri would face no great financial motive to get the old inn up and running, and could potentially mothball it on speculation.
Finally, there is the disconcerting matter of Mr. Acri's controversial business involvement with the Kotzebue, an Alaskan Eskimo group. Walton Invesco Inc., hired to administer the native Alaskan group's corporate entity, instead "siphon(ed) assets and opportunities to themselves," alleges a still active lawsuit. Mr. Acri directed Walton Invesco as president and CEO.
Mr. Acri told Day Staff Writer Lee Howard the lawsuit's allegations "are unequivocally not true." However, the U.S. Small Business Administration was concerned enough to suspend the company's ability to participate in government contracts for nine months, beginning in 2011.
The allegations are too serious for the city to ignore and turn over the keys to the inn to Mr. Acri.
Seek new bids with no minimum asking price, an offer to discuss incentives, and the expectation of stipulated deadlines for progress.