City Commission Meeting

This post contains notes from the city commission meeting on October 4th, 2011.

Community Garden

Jody Brillhart was recognized  for her work with the community garden project. Dave Martin spoke very highly of her work on that project and presented her with a certificate from the city.

Handicap Parking on Main

A citizen asked the commission for help with parking around the 900 block of Main near the high-school stadium. He is handicapped and cannot get a parking spot near his house when there is a football game. The police told him to park in the back of his house, but other people were parking there.

Mayor Adams asked the police chief if the individual could have the cars parked behind his house towed. The police chief said that if it was on his property the police could not have it towed, but it could be towed at the homeowners expense. The individual said that he was concerned that someone would damage his car if he had theirs towed.  The commission asked if it was legal to put a handicap parking put in front of his house, but Mr. Martin cautioned against putting handicapped signs up in public parking areas.  He was also pointed out that anyone with a handicap sticker could park in the space, so it might not necessarily help the individual get to his house.

Security Near 500 Block of Eddy

A retired couple moved from California to 400/500 block of Eddy had concerns about the security in that area. There was a robbery of a woman who lives alone and a suspicious fire. They feel like they are losing their neighborhood and that there isn’t enough of a police presence. They wanted to know what they can do to help keep the area safe. They were also concerned about the junk left in the alleys for 6 to 7 months.

Another individual said his car was stolen and burned last year after calling the police on the disturbances from 419 Eddy and he recently had another $10,000 of damage to his property in a similar situation. He said he has called the police “a bazillion times” but he felt the police were tired of hearing from him.  He said he called the police about a drug deal last Thursday, but they officer never came. He felt the police are scared of the people in that area. He feels that they aren’t catching anyone because they don’t spend any time there and because they don’t do any “detectiving” at night when the crimes are being committed.

He also said that people drive way to fast. He is thankful for the potholes on the street because it slows people down.

He didn’t think anyone would want to join any type of neighborhood watch program because they are afraid of retaliation.  He wants to see people arrested instead of just talking about it. He invited the commission to come over, sit at his house and watch what is going on.

One individual in the neighborhood not at the meeting bought a gun and put up a sign on his garage saying that he will shoot if anyone gets on his property.

Mother to Mother & Memorial Hall

Mother to Mother needed a different location and temporarily relocated to Memorial Hall. Dave Martin asked the commission if the area they are using could be leased to them on a more permanent basis for $100 per month going forward.

The ministry has been in Bourbon county for 13 years and serves a lot of single mothers, grandparents and other people who are having trouble raising their children. They were located in two units in Cameron Heights until HUD asked them to switch to a single unit, but it wasn’t big enough. They clothe 38 to 40 kids with school clothes every year. They also give out a lot of detergent and cleaning supplies. Last year they gave out over 20,000 diapers. Normally they get FEMA funds for diapers, but it wasn’t available this year because of the census.

The mayor is concerned that allowing people to use Memorial Hall is a dangerous precedence and pointed out that the city moved out of there because the cost of utilities are so high ($50,000 to heat per year). He wants to get the boiler shutdown and would prefer to have Mothers to Mothers located in a different location.  Right now there are still some city employees there (codes department), but that will change in the near future.  He was also concerned that opening it up for one non-profit will mean it must be available for any non-profit.

Dave Martin asked the commission if the goal is to shut down Memorial Hall and pointed out that it will deteriorate over time if left empty. If someone is going to need be in the building it might as well be an organization like Mother to Mother.

The mayor is concerned that as the federal government shuts down other services, the city is going to be faced with more and more organizations looking for a space. He would like to see the building shut down, but it appears that there are  number of other things the building is currently being used for including genealogy, records storage and the country music show.

The commission voted to table the discussion for now and plan to have a work session to look at the options and repercussions in more detail.

416 Eddy

The codes inspector said the building has been a problem for quite a while. He said it had gone through the condemnation process and after that was completed it caught on fire.  He recommends that the city go ahead and demolish the structure. The decision had been previously tabled, but they voted to go ahead and demolish it. They will get bids on having it removed.

Golf Cart Ordinance

The police chief checked with 16 other cities who allow golf carts on the city streets and none of them had any types of accidents. The ordinance being proposed requires registration of carts to be driven on the road. Several commissioners said that people had told them they didn’t want to see golf carts on the street.

Nothing was decided as this was the first reading.

Water/Sewer Penalties

There was a first reading of an ordinance that would increase the penalties for late payments from 5% to 10%.

Salary Ordinance

The account’s payable clerk has moved to the golf course. Dave Martin wants to promote Brent Crays to the director Community Development. The ordinance wasn’t passed out at the meeting, but it appears to deal with the raises and salaries of city workers.

The ordinance was passed.

Special Highway Budget

The ordinance will amend the budget to publish the ordinance that will allow the city to spend some money on road engineering.

 

New Pool Status Update

In April, the citizens of Fort Scott approved a .5% sales tax increase to fund  a $3.9 million project including a new pool and an addition to Buck Run. The plan was to shut down the pool at the end of the 2011 season have the new one ready to go by Memorial Day in 2012.

If you go by the pool you’ll see that the slides are gone and the roof has been removed from the pool house, but other than that there doesn’t seem to be much going on.

Actually there is quite a bit going on behind the scenes. The slides and other equipment have been donated to the city of Joplin. There has been a bid accepted on the construction and the current effort is going into getting the bonds written and issued for the funding.

While there isn’t a firm start date, things are proceeding as expected and the City says the pool should open in 2012 as planned.

Commission Meeting

Here are some notes from today’s commission meeting.

Payment Plan Audit Questions

Terry Sercer has yet to provide the commissioners with a timeline for when the audit and report will be completed. The commission wasn’t clear if the report would come to them or go to the county attorney or the attorney general. Jingles Endicott will contact Mr. Sercer and have an update on the timeline for Friday’s meeting.

Susan Porter (former employee in the treasurer’s office) said she believed that some of the taxes that were left off of the previous sale went all the pay back to 2004 and that some of those properties were not ever submitted to the abstract office so they never got to the point where the county commission could decided whether or not they were to be put on the tax sale.

The commission was asked if properties that were left out of the paper actually had the redemption start date triggered. They said they had not heard back from Dan Meara regarding the issue of whether or not payment plan properties can be sold. (more info on this issue)

Evidently last Friday someone was at the commission meeting who was five years delinquent and was wondering how many years he would need to pay in order to keep his property off the tax sale. Terri Johnson (County Attorney) is still checking into whether or not the property could be partially redeemed or not. She has asked the treasurer for a copy of the newspaper publications for the previous years to see if this particular property was listed or not.

Gene Cowen asked why the payment plan contracts were not signed. Jingles Endicott explained that the contract didn’t allow the property owner to do anything different than they could have done without the payment plan so whether they were signed or not didn’t really matter.

Vicious dog question

Curtis O’Dell had some questions about vicious dogs in the county. He said has had problems with his neighborhood pit bulls attacking his family. He said that the sheriff’s department has been out there 5 or 6 times.

Harold Coleman said there is a vicious dog ordinance, but no leash laws in the county. He said you aren’t allowed to have a pit bull in Bourbon County, but it is very difficult to say whether or not a dog is a pit bull. He said that anyone who is bit needs to make a complaint. Curtis said there had been a complaint, but it was thrown out of court.

Commissioner Coleman said Mr. O’Dell should take the signed documentation of times the dogs have bit or chased people to the sheriff’s department.

Misc

  • $200 to Hammond Community Center for their building.
  • Dump site in Garland that needs to be cleaned up, but there is concern that the trash will just get moved down the road instead of being taken to the dump.
  • The commission agreed to lease a rock quarry from the George Family Trust & other members of the George family.

Commission Meeting Sept 30th

  • The county is going to be accepting bids for workers comp, property, and casualty insurance.
  • The college is looking to put a new surface on the walking trail and asking if the county, city and Mercy can all come together to do it.
  • The county is using a TWork’s plan to replace some bridges. The plan has take federal money & converted it to state money to reduce the amount of red tape. The program will reimburse $0.90 of every dollar for certain projects.
  • One of the three year old road-graders has a problem where pushing on the brake triggers the rear windshield wiper.
  • The newer road-graders that were recently purchased have some type of communication system so errors and maintenance issues can be viewed from a web page.

Audit Not On Commission Agenda

As of 3:15 pm today, Terry Sercer was not on the commission agenda for Friday. According to the Tribune Terry expected to have the audit done by Friday. Terry was not immediately available by phone, so it isn’t clear if the audit is complete or not.

Update: I did hear back from Terry Sercer via and he said that the Tribune had implied that he would meet with the commissioners this week which was incorrect. He is trying to get the Tribune to correct this error. Obviously he can’t comment on the audit, but it doesn’t sound like the report from the audit is finished yet.

Can Payment Plan Properties Be Sold?

When property taxes are not paid, the delinquent property is to be “bid off” to the county for the amount of unpaid taxes. This is kind of like an auction, but one where the county is the only person allowed to bid and only for the amount of unpaid taxes, interest and fees. The list is prepared in July, but the actual sale/bid off process occurs after the second Tuesday in  September and is preceded by notification printed in the paper.

Between July 1 and July 10 of each year, the county treasurer shall prepare a list of all real estate subject to sale, [ … ] . The county treasurer also shall prepare an accompanying notice stating that the county treasurer will sell the real estate described in the list to the county for the amount of the delinquent taxes and legal charges due on the real estate and that the sale will be on or after the first Tuesday of September following publication of the notice under K.S.A. 79-2303, and amendments thereto. (source)

This it he process for the county to take ownership of the land, but it is not a foreclosure process. People are still allowed to use the property until foreclosure occurs after a redemption period has passed.

If property gets left off the published list and the “bid off” that occurs in September, there is a provision for that as well.

If any county treasurer shall unavoidably omit or fail to sell any real estate for unpaid taxes on the first Tuesday of September, he or she shall advertise and sell such real estate on the fourth Monday of October next ensuing, and such advertisement and sale shall conform in all respects to the provisions of this act, and shall be as binding and valid as if such sale had been made on the first Tuesday of September. (source)

Interestingly, there is a provision for cases where property was left off the list for a given year as well.

If any county treasurer at any time discovers that any tract or lot of real estate has not been put on the list of delinquent taxes and not sold for any preceding year, the treasurer shall be required to place the omitted tract or lot on the list of delinquent taxes for the current year, and sell the tract or lot as directed by this act in other cases. (source)

So if property was left of the list in one year, it must be included the next. What that means in the case of Bourbon County is that if anyone didn’t pay taxes before 2010, were not printed in the paper for that year, but somehow managed to pay their 2010 taxes, the should have had their names printed in the paper and the property bid off to the county this year.  I’m not aware of any property that was in that specific situation, but it means that the the treasurer is allowed to add property from previous years if it is somehow left off.

Once the county owns the property, they can’t sell it until a redemption period has passed. The general provision is listed below.

(a) (1) Except as provided by paragraph (2) and subsection (b), real estate bid off by the county for both delinquent taxes and special assessments, as defined by subsection (c), shall be held by the county until the expiration of two years from the date of the sale, subject only to the right of redemption as provided by this section. (source)

There is an exception for property that is classified as a “homestead” to give it a three year redemption period instead of two. Also homestead’s can be partially redeemed whereas that doesn’t appear to be an option for non-homestead property.

Now here is where things get interesting. If property was not bid off to the county, then the beginning of the redemption period was not triggered.  If the beginning of the redemption period was not triggered, can the county foreclose and sell the property at the sheriff’s auction?  

I expected there to be some type of paper trail or some documentation attached to the deed of properties sold to the county, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. I’m not trying to imply that there was something wrong with the way the bid off process occurred, it is just different than what I’d expect. It does, however, make sense that sale to the county for unpaid taxes might be different than sale to an individual. If someone tries to sell property that is owned by the county, the abstract work involves looking into any back taxes.

Obviously the redemption period is a safeguard for citizens to give them a reasonable amount of time to redeem their property.  So it isn’t something you’d want to circumvent. As a non-lawyer reading the statutes, it would appear that people with properties that were not listed in the paper would be well within their rights to ask to see proof that the property was actually bid off to the county triggering the start of the redemption period.

There is a provision in the law for cases where a name is left off of the list published in the paper. The property can still be bid off to the county even without being listed in the paper.

No irregularity or informality in the advertisement nor any error or omission in the listing of the names shall affect the legality of the sale or the title to any real estate subject to sale or sold for taxes under the act of which K.S.A. 79-2302 is amendatory, or under the act providing for judicial foreclosure and sale of realty by county. (source)

If you read the context of this statute, it appears to be referring to the “bid off” by the term sale and not the actual foreclosure where the property is sold to someone other than the county.

I asked the Bourbon County Treasurer what exactly constitues a “bid off” and “sale” in this situation. If I understood correctly it is a matter of switching all the properties over in the computer.

I did ask if properties on the payment plan that were left out of the paper in the past, had been bid off to the county and was told that they were. So according to the treasurer’s office all of the properties were correctly sold to the county regardless of whether or not they were published in the paper.

It is unclear what would constitute proof that the bid off and sale to the county occurred for a piece of property. This may be as simple as showing the computer history that indicates when the property was switched to being owned by the county. It does not appear that this information is something that can be seen from the tax search available to citizens.

So what does this all mean? Well, if you have property with delinquent taxes that was not listed in the paper for the past few years, the county is going to need to be able to prove that a bid off did indeed occur which would trigger the start of the redemption period. Obviously I am not a lawyer, so there may be precedences or other laws that would come into play.  Either way, the county needs to be careful how it handles attempting to foreclose on property that has not gone through the normal publication, bid off and sale process.

 

iPod Shuffle Giveaway

The winner of this contest has been contacted, but stay tuned for more giveaways.

FortScott.biz has a subscription option where you can get daily emails with all of the new stories for that day. To help bring more attention to this feature, we are giving away an iPod Shuffle to one subscriber.  To sign up, all you have to do is to subscribe.


The contest will run until October 11th, 2011. Here are the rules:

  • You have to be subscribed to the list to enter. That means you’ll need to type in your email address and then confirm the subscription.
  • You can enter from this link or using the form on the right hand side of the page.
  • You’ll need to come to Fort Scott to claim the prize. If you live in Alaska, this might not be cost effective for you.
  • The winner will be announced and have their picture posted to the site. This probably isn’t a good contest for people in the witness protection program.
  • If you are under 18, you’ll need a guardian to accept it on your behalf.

Corrected Scan of Payment Plan Documents

The original scan posted of the payment plan documents had 140 contracts. I mentioned at that time that there were some documents that may have double fed into the scanner as I had been billed for 143 documents. After going back through and double checking for anything that hadn’t made it to the posted PDF, I added eight more contracts bringing the total number to 148.

I apologize for the error and want to stress that it was an issue with scanning on my end of things–not something on the county side. You can download the corrected PDF using the link below.

PDF of Payment Plan Contracts

Susan emailed me to clarify why many of the contracts were not signed. Many were handled through the mail and people didn’t sign and return them after they were received. As long as the payment plan wasn’t letting people do anything that they couldn’t have done on their own, it really didn’t make a difference if they were signed or not. It may have helped people schedule out their payments, but that wasn’t something people couldn’t have done for themselves.

County Tax Sale Preparation

At the county commission meeting this morning there was some discussion about how the tax sale will proceed.

Dan Meara (who was county attorney until the end of 1985) will be handling the tax sale. Today they discussed the timelines and his contract. Mr. Meara pointed out that it is difficult to prescribe a specific timeline or to contractually agree to specific date milestones. Property where the suit is filed, but no one responds are the easiest to go ahead and sell. In many cases, property owners will go ahead and pay the amount owed when they get the notification of the suit.

Mr. Meara said he felt it would only take a few weeks to get the suits filed after he gets the information from the abstracting company.

Once the county files suit, people have to bring everything current to avoid the sheriff’s sale. It was unclear if the expiration of the redemption period or the filing of the lawsuit paperwork triggered the need to bring all taxes current.

If people do not respond to the suit, the county will win default judgement. Then those properties will need to be published in the paper three times. If the properties are still delinquent on their taxes, they will be sold. It appears that the soonest a sale could occur would be in February.

Mr. Meara will use the county postage machine and county letter head. The commissioners expressed a desire to see the sale proceed in a timely manner. Mr. Meara wants Commissioner Harold Coleman to be the auctioneer, but Harold wasn’t very interested in doing it.

The current properties that are being reviewed by the abstracting company are for 2007 delinquent taxes.   In talking with Mr. Meara, he believed that the county could auction off property with delinquent taxes from 2008 or earlier if they chose to do so.

Pay Access to County Records

Everyone has access to the basic tax search that is found here. However there are two other levels of access. For $120 per year you can get more details on each property. I believe this includes some information such as the type of construction, number of outbuildings, etc. If you are an appraiser, you can get access to the selling price of the property for $240 per year. The appraiser’s office wasn’t clear if limiting the higher level of access to appraisers was a legal requirement or just the county policy.

Not all states make selling prices public record. In some of those states charge transfer taxes based on the selling price that make it easy to calculate what the selling price was.

Currently there are 14 people with the the $240 access and 9 people with $120 access. This means the website brings in $4440 per year to the county.

Up until a month or so ago, the basic access didn’t list payments. The cost to see that information was $60 per year, but the commissioners opened that up to everyone and refunded anyone who had already paid.

List of Delinquent 2010 Taxes

Below is a link to a list of the delinquent taxes from 2010. This should be available soon on the Bourbon County website.  To the best of my knowledge this is the list that was given to the newspaper in order to print the list of names. At the end of the document are another list of names. This appears to be the people who were struck through in the original list because they were on the payment plan. This list was later printed in the paper.

List of Bourbon County 2010 Delinquent Taxes

Note: You aren’t legally allowed to use this list to try to sell things to people.

The cover letter states that the properties were to be sold to Bourbon County for the amount of taxes owed. Keep in mind that this is not the same as the sheriff’s sale. This sale means that the county owns the property, however the county isn’t allowed to sell it to someone else until the redemption period has expired. For homesteads that period is 3 years. For non-homesteads that period is 2 years.

Property owners are allowed to partially redeem their property by paying the oldest taxes due which will extend the redemption period by another year. This means that homestead owners can legally be up to three years behind on their taxes as long as they pay the oldest taxes before the redemption period expires.