A corporation that has bid on historic Harder Hall can have 90 days to inspect the property and be able to pull out without losing any of its deposit, the Sebring City Council decided Tuesday.
However, NRPIA No. 1 Corp. of Delray Beach, as of press time, had not put up the required $100,000 deposit, which was needed before a contract would be signed.
City attorney Bob Swaine said the bidder, by putting up a deposit, even though at 90 days it's refundable, shows good faith, he said.
If a bidder can't put up a deposit, that puts into question whether the bidder can ultimately afford to purchase Harder Hall, Swaine said.
When the city accepted sealed bids on Feb. 1, NRPIA was the only bidder. It had previously bid $3.6 million after MVP Properties of Davie bid $3.4 million.
MVP Properties withdrew its bid after the city decided to accept sealed bids. NRPIA upped its bid to $4.2 million.
Under the original bid specifications, NRPIA was required to put up a deposit of $100,000. After 30 days, the city would keep $25,000 if NRPIA withdrew its bid; after 60 days, $50,000; and after 90 days, $100,000.
When NRPIA asked for more time to review the purchase and be able to keep its deposit, Swaine proposed that the council extend the period to 180 days. Council members balked at that and offered the full 90 days.
However, they agreed with Councilman Andrew Fells that if the bidder wants more time, the deposit would become non-refundable.
Council member John Clark said before the council decided on 90 days that he favored giving the bidder 30 days to inspect the property, possibly with the ability to put a hole in the wall to get an idea of the full scope of the work needed to renovate Harder Hall.
But Mayor George Hensley questioned whether giving the bidder more time would cause problems.
"There are not a lot of people out there that we've seen that want the property," Hensley said.
Some council members said that they felt 180 days was too long to keep Harder Hall off the market.
If the bidder puts up the deposit, the city during the first 90 days can't reject that bid, even if another bidder comes forward with a higher bid, Swaine said.
But until that deposit is provided, that doesn't come into play, he said.