Heritage Lake properties to be available in commissioners sale
After spending their previous two meetings considering the fairest approach to offer properties at commissioners sales, the Putnam County Commissioners made their decision earlier this week.
For the upcoming commissioners sale on Tuesday, Feb. 24, Clear Creek Conservancy will not have the opportunity to buy the Heritage Lake properties for the minimum bid price of $25 in advance of the sale.
Instead, the conservancy district will be eligible to bid during the sale and then have the chance to buy the properties in question after the meeting.
The decision goes against the practice of the county for commissioners sales in 2013 and 2014, in which Clear Creek was given the advanced opportunity to buy the properties.
The idea of the prior arrangement was for Clear Creek to minimize the losses it takes when a lot with unpaid sewer assessments is sold at the tax sale.
In 2012, Cathy Deer and the late Robert Hanson approached the commissioners and county council with the idea. After consideration, the commissioners chose to move forward with the idea, selling properties to Clear Creek in advance of the last two commissioners sales.
Deer has continued to come back to commissioners meetings, making the request in open meetings each year.
The idea of a commissioners sale is for the county to sell lots with unpaid taxes and assessments at a minimum price. Properties only go to commissioners sale after failing to sell at tax sale, thus leaving the county little recourse but to cut its losses and get properties back on the tax rolls.
The problem in this case, however, is not all of the losses being cut are the county's. Cathy Deer of Clear Creek originally approached the commissioners in late 2012 with the idea of the district buying the properties with unpaid assessments, then either turning them into green space for the Floyd Township community or selling them later -- at a high enough prices to cover the conservancy's losses.
In the upcoming sale, those unpaid sewer assessments total more than $202,000 across 63 different properties.
However, some would-be buyers of the properties came to a January commissioners meeting and questioned the fairness and even the legality of the practice, saying they would like the chance to buy some of the properties.
With County Attorney Jim Ensley having discussed the matter with all sides, the legality matter seems to be settled. Because the properties currently belong to the commissioners, they can legally sell them before the sale if they so choose.
Deer even provided the Banner Graphic with a letter dated October 2012 in which David McGimpsey of the Indianapolis law firm Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLC laid out for Scott Hoff, then the Putnam County attorney, the legality of the matter.
With legal issues out of the way, the question becomes fairness to all interested parties.
Board president David Berry said he had been considering the issue and the interests of all sides. Berry thought the best course of action was to rescind the previous offer to Clear Creek. Instead, every property will go through the commissioners sale on Tuesday, with anyone -- Clear Creek included -- having the chance to bid on the properties.
Following the sale, any unsold Heritage Lake property will be available to Clear Creek at the minimum bid price of $25.
"That way, we have a chance to get them back on the tax rolls," Berry said.
Don Walton seconded Berry's motion, with Rick Woodall casting a third affirmative vote.
The commissioners sale is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24 in the lobby of the courthouse.