Onaway city commissioners make decisions on foreclosed properties

by Peter Jakey-Managing Editor

Onaway city commissioners exercised their right of refusal on 2014 tax-foreclosed properties on North Veterans Drive and College Street. The two empty lots had dilapidated houses on them before the county had them razed earlier this year.

The commission took no action on a third property, 20473 Shaw, that has a long vacant house on it. With no action taken, it will transfer from the ownership of the county to the city.

A decision needed to be made by the end of the year; however, the board left the door open to refuse the Shaw Street property if they have to pay the 2014 taxes.

City attorney Mike Vogler tweaked a resolution and read it to the commission before it was unanimously approved.

City manager Joe Hefele told the commission that the Shaw Street parcel has been vacant for a couple of decades.

“I don’t know how long it has been since someone occupied that place,” said Hefele at the beginning of the discussion during Wednesday’s meeting. “Being that it just went through two auctions, including one where someone could have bought it for $1 and it did not sell, I am starting to think that the likelihood that someone is going to acquire that, put money into and bring it back is getting slimmer and slimmer.”

“I talked to our fire chief and it could potentially be used for a training exercise during our next fiscal year,” said Hefele. He said that would bring the demolition costs down significantly.

The city manager believes eliminating long-vacant structures is as important as anything they are doing to improve the community. There also is an opportunity for an interested party to come forward and take it over, short of demolition.

Hefele said the city is going to be back-billed three years regardless of their decision, but there was still some lingering concern about the 2014 bill. He added “the city would acquire that with the understanding that it would not be paying any taxes above and beyond 2013. That ‘zero-out (2104 taxes)’ the board of review did last night (Tuesday) carries from the county to us because we are both public entities.”

County treasurer Bridget LaLonde wanted a decision before the board of review meeting, but the city rescheduled its first regular monthly meeting from Dec. 1st to the 10th. LaLonde was going seek additional information to ensure the city would not be charged 2014 taxes when the Shaw Street property transferred. Hefele said if information comes back that the city would be on the hook for the 2014 taxes following transfer, the matter would be back on the table at the next meeting and the city would refuse it.

Mayor Gary Wregglesworth said it would be worth the risk.

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In other news about city parcels, the offer from the owner of 20282 State Street is off the table because it has been sold to another party.

Vogler was told to no longer research the legality of the city of acquiring it and removing a mobile home.