Old Middle School – New Owner

The previous owners of the Fort Scott Middle School gave up on their plans to turn it into an art center after partially renovated some of the rooms into a very modern looking apartment.  The fate of the building has been uncertain for some time.

If you’ve driven by the old Fort Scott Middle School in the past few days, you’ve probably noticed a “Sold” sign in the yard.  The property was purchased by Paul Feeney and his wife. Their goal is to turn the building into a large entertainment venue. They plan to start off with indoor electric race carts and eventually add a video arcade, rock climbing wall and a restaurant. They would also like to look at renovating the auditorium so it could be used for events.

Paul said it is a long term project, but they are moving to Fort Scott in the next few weeks and plan to live here full time. The initial attractions probably won’t open for two years because there is going to be a lot of work necessary to renovate the building to accomodate the planned changes and he is expecting some regulatory hurdles particularly concerning retrofitting an older building for handicap access.

The work will be self funded and they are not seeking for outside investors. However, they are open to partnering with local businesses. For example if a local restaurant was interested in opening a location in the building once the attractions are running, they would prefer to partner with an existing business rather than opening up competition. Paul said, “The last thing we want to do is to step on anyone’s toes.”

The big difference between some of the other failures in this type of building is that we are going to be in the town and living in the building. This isn’t going to be an offsite project done remotely. ~ Paul Feeney

Paul is 43 years old and a veteran of the automotive industry in California. He said his goal is for the project to support itself. He and his wife are very excited to being part of a smaller community like Fort Scott.


Here are some photos of the middle school from the real estate site where it was offered for sale. These pictures are several years old, so there has probably been some deterioration.

Fort Scott Professional Building

The old Newman Young Clinic is now the Fort Scott Professional Building. It was purchased by David Gibson in 2006 and renovated to convert it from a medical facility to a multi tenant office building.

Current tenants include:

  • Kansas Social & Rehabilitation Services
  • Foxx Apothecary
  • Choices Psychological Services
  • Hudson & Mullies Law Office
  • Life Touch National Studios

There are a number of “move-in-ready” suites. David said he offers three months of free rent for those suites with a 24 month lease agreement. He can also build out suites to a tenant’s specifications with longer term lease agreements.

The building features a Red Cross approved storm shelter, ADA compliant access, and both covered and uncovered parking. Tenants have access to a shared conference room and there is a larger meeting room available by the day that will seat up to 100 visitors.

The website has photos of a number of the suites and common areas. Leases include electricity, gas, water, and janitorial services for the common areas and common bathrooms. There are suites available that can accomodate everything from a small one person office to a 10,000 sq. foot business.

AT&T has recently installed 100 fiber optic cable lines into the building, so it is one of the few places in Fort Scott with pre-existing fiber. This alleviates the worries and hassle of getting fiber pulled to the building for companies that need data services provided by fiber.

The Fort Scott Professional Building pays a $500 referral fee to individuals or businesses who suggest a lead that ends up signing a lease. If you know of a business that is looking for space, give David Gibson a call at 856-669-8634 or email dgibson@dmgholdingsgroup.com. You can also contact the offic manager, Kim Reagan, at kim.reagan@dmgholdingsgroup.com

 

County Commission Meeting

Audit and Report

Terry Sercer will be presenting a report on October 17th to the KBI and Attorney General. Eventually there will be a report that will come to the county commissioners.

On August the 30th, the Bourbon County Attorney requested that the KBI and Attorney General investigate the allegations made against the Bourbon County Treasurer.

When asked if the report would have come back to the commissioners if everything looked clear, the commissioners said “no” because the KBI and the Attorney General is the one who will make the call as to whether anything criminal occurred. According to the commissioners at the meeting today, Terry Sercer was never going to present directly to the commission.

Tax Sale

Dan Meara requested a 30 minute executive session for the tax foreclosure case with the commissioners, the County Treasurer (Susan Quick) and the County Attorney (Teri Johnson).  Teri Johnson was in a hearing and unable to come. The commissioners were unclear if she could join once an executive session was started. Joanne Long (County Clerk) said that she could.

Questions were raised about the purpose of the executive session and whether or not it indicated that the county was facing a potential lawsuit related to the tax sale. Dan Meara said that the commissioners were allowed to talk to their lawyers (Mr. Meara is representing the county for the tax sale) privately as part of attorney/client privilege and the litigation was the tax sale–not a pending lawsuit against the county.

Executive sessions can only be held if they fall within an exception to the Kansas Open Meetings Act. Some of the exceptions used in the past have been discussion of the employment of non-elected officials, non-elected officials salaries, attorney/client privilege, lawsuit settlement and pending litigation. Tax sale issues were all discussed openly up to this point (to the best of my knowledge). In looking at previous meeting minutes, I cannot find an instance where an executive session was used to discuss tax sale matters. However, it could have been discussed under the umbrella of “attorney/client” privilege and the actual purpose not noted in the minutes.

At the last meeting Dan Meara attended, there were questions raised about what properties could be sold and whether properties not listed in the paper had actually begun the redemption period which must expire before they can be sold. Mr. Meara was going to look into these issues. If those topics are not addressed in an open forum, it seems likely that they were discussed as part of the executive session although it isn’t clear why an executive session would be necessary.

According to the Attorney General, the attorney/client exception to the Kansas Open Record Act (see 5 b of this pdf),  only applies when the information is actually privileged. Privileged information is defined in KSA 60-426.

Before the end of the executive session, Teri Johnson joined the commissioners, Susan Quick, and Dan Meara.

After the 30 minutes were up, Dean West spoke with the commission for a few minutes and then they went back into executive session for another 30 minutes. I had to leave before the meeting was opened up again.

Dean West

Said that 12% of his social security was going toward property taxes for his small house. He doesn’t want to have to sell his house and move into a nursing home.  Joanne Long said that there had been some people trying to get tax rates locked in for senior citizens, but that law has not passed yet.

Grinder Pumps in New Sewer District

Pam Franklin expressed concern that where the grinder pump was placed at her place at the lake would flood. She didn’t want to have to replace a $1,500 pump every spring. Jingles Endicott said the pumps are submersible and it wouldn’t hurt them to be under water and would use a lot of electricity. Pam Franklin was concerned that they would be pumping water out of the lake.

Jingles said that they talked to the company that was putting the pumps and they are going to move their pump.

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.