Several parcels of surplus county land could soon meet their fate after months and, in some cases, years of waiting on judgment.
In a joint session of the Weakley County Finance, Ways and Means and the Health, Education and Economic Development committees on Monday, committee members discussed what to do with property that had been purchased by the county through tax sales.
“This land is county owned and is no longer leased or utilized,” HEED chairman Jimmy Westbrook explained. “This is something that won’t go away and needs attention.”
The committees first addressed the Oliver Machine and Welding property in Gleason. This parcel has $12,162.16 in taxes against it with approximately $8,000 in county taxes and the rest with the City of Gleason. The property cannot be sold and there is a redemption period ongoing until Feb. 26.
“We have an interim prospect to lease to and he already has a business. He would be interested in purchasing at the end of the redemption period,” Gleason Mayor Jack Dunning reported.
Westbrook explained that a sale cannot be negotiated, but the property can be auctioned or have a sealed bid. He further explained that an indefinite lease can be put into place with insurance included.
A motion was made and passed to form a subcommittee to meet with the potential owner, county mayor and city mayor to look into rent.
Secondly, the parcel of Martin Bros. Timber in Martin was discussed.
The property was purchased in 1964 through revenue bonds with the county and the City of Martin. The bonds were paid off some 25 years ago, but now the company is about to go out of business.
Marvin Alexander is selling all the fixtures, but lacks a crucial part of the contract. The parcel is jointly owned by the city and county and the deed includes 28 acres more or less with three railroad spurs.
A motion was passed to auction off the county’s half of the property assuming that the City of Martin will vote to do the same with its half in its next board meeting.
The next parcel of land involved a bankruptcy and included the former businesses of Rebel Screeners, Inc. and W.S. Wormser in Sharon. Rebel Screeners has $90,344 in taxes against it and Wormser has $288,863.43.
“The county won’t take ownership until after February,” Assessor of Property David Tuck added.
Finance, Ways and Means chairman Roger Stewart referred to the matter as a “mess” and a liability.
As this has been a persistent issue for over 10 years, the committees voted to give a notice for possible liens and make preparations to sell the property as soon as possible after Feb. 26.
Next to be addressed was the Creative Label building and attorneys’ bills associated with it.
Tuck explained that between $240,000 and $250,000 in back taxes are owed. The only taxes that have been paid are the in lieu of taxes. The owners appealed the decision four times and are now in the process of appealing again. Tuck added that a letter was sent to Jeff Washburn and Winchester, the attorney for the owners, contacted Washburn about settling.“They’re asking for between $700,000 and $800,000 and $250,000 will come to the county. About $20,000 in attorneys fees are owed. Bill Neese started this and Jeff took over,” Tuck explained.
This has been ongoing since 1996. It is due to go before the supreme court next and there is a lien on the building so it cannot be sold until it is paid. Additionally, the City of Martin is owed $85,000 as the Martin Industrial Board owns the land. A motion was made and passed to amend the budget, table the debt owed and turn the case over entirely to Washburn.
Before the meeting adjourned, Tuck mentioned two other parcels of land that will eventually be discussed — old schoolhouse property in Pillowville belonging to the Weakley County Board of Education and one acre of landlocked property in Sharon that was sold in a tax sale and returned.