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What you need to know for 01/24/2017

Eminent domain payout OK’d in Saratoga Lake case

Eminent domain payout OK’d in Saratoga Lake case

The Saratoga County Sewer District will pay $175,500 to the estate of a city woman killed by her son

The Saratoga County Sewer District will pay $175,500 to the estate of a city woman killed by her son last fall in a high-profile murder-suicide.

The payment, approved Wednesday by the county Board of Supervisors’ Law and Finance Committee, will settle an eminent domain case the sewer district had pending with Patricia Ambrozak prior to her death.

“The money will go to the estate of Patricia Ambrozak,” said County Administrator Spencer Hellwig.

The bodies of Ambrozak, who was 75, and her son, John, 47, were found Oct. 4 — roughly five days after their deaths — inside a mobile home next to the Bayshores Tropic Hut, a small bar she owned on the shores of Saratoga Lake. Both had suffered gunshot wounds, and investigators found a weapon inside the mobile home. Police concluded the son had killed his mother and then himself, for unknown reasons.

At the time, the sewer district had an eminent domain proceeding pending with the elder Ambrozak, tied to its $18.4 million project to upgrade sewers and pump stations around Saratoga Lake.

A small sewage pumping station is located on land Ambrozak owned next to Route 9P and the bridge over Fish Creek, just a short distance from the bar. When the district sought permission to upgrade it, officials discovered problems dating back to when the pumping station was constructed in 1984.

“As with a lot of our easements, it turns out the easement wasn’t properly filed,” said Chad Cooke, executive director of the sewer district.

Using eminent domain, he said the district took title to the property in August. By law, a court then sets the compensation to be paid to the land owner. The sewer district hired an appraiser, who set the value of the 2,800-square-foot parcel at $175,500. The district will pay it, assuming the full Board of Supervisors approves Feb. 25.

The amount raised eyebrows among supervisors, but there were no objections to paying it.

“It’s lakefront property,” Hellwig said.

“It was a little more than I expected,” said Cooke, who said two small capital projects in the district will be postponed to cover the cost of the settlement.

It isn’t clear who the heirs to Ambrozak’s estate are. John Ambrozak was her only child, but her obituary listed a brother, nephews, aunts, an uncle and several cousins.

Eminent domain is government’s right to take private property to serve a greater public good.

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