Grant County earned about $168,000 from an open auction held May 17 to sell tax-foreclosed properties and about $155,000 on a silent auction with bids opening June 15 for the remaining properties.
Thirty-one tax-foreclosed properties were deeded to the county April 10, and 13 of the properties offered at the open auction did not have buyers. The minimum bid at the open auction was set at 50 percent of market value.
Grant County Assessor David Thunell told the Grant County Court at their June 13 meeting that 58 bids were submitted for the properties that didn’t sell at the first auction. One property in Kimberly had 13 bids, he said.
The court approved Thunell’s suggestion to accept the top two bids in the silent auction. If neither bidder presented a check on June 15, the county would hold onto the properties for now.
Checks for 12 of the 13 remaining properties were submitted, and the second bid for the 13th property was a good offer, Thunell told the Eagle. All the sold properties will be on the tax rolls by July 1, he said.
Thunell told the court delinquent taxes on some properties dated back to the 1980s, and he was glad to see them back on the tax rolls. He credited District Attorney Jim Carpenter for fulfilling his campaign promise to file for judgment on properties that owed back taxes.
County Judge Scott Myers said the earnings would be used to reimburse the various county departments that worked on the foreclosures.
In other county court news:
• The court approved changes to the draft fiscal year 2018-2019 budget. The general fund totals $5.1 million, Grant County Treasurer Julie Ellison told the Eagle.
Included in the changes was $40,000 budgeted for a new natural resource adviser position. Myers said he was in talks with Oregon State University to provide someone to fill that position through the extension service, with the costs shared between the county and the university.
• Following an executive session, the court agreed to offer to sell the county health department building at 528 E. Main St. in John Day to Community Counseling Solutions for $400,000 and to retain the “L” Building next door at 530 E. Main St. for use by the county.
The vote was 2-1, with Commissioner Boyd Britton opposed. The “L” Building is currently occupied by the Economic Development Office, Veteran Services Office, Emergency Management and the food bank.
• New Ochoco National Forest Supervisor Shane Jeffries introduced himself to the court and provided an update on the forest. Jeffries previously worked as a deputy supervisor and district ranger in the Deschutes National Forest.
The Ochoco Forest manages about 740,000 acres, including 57,826 in Grant County. About half of the Black Canyon Wilderness is in Grant County, with access at the South Fork John Day trailhead. Volunteer and Forest Service crews will clear hiking trails in the wilderness this summer, Jeffries said.
About 230,000 acres of the forest is included in the proposed Blue Mountains Forest Resiliency Project planned for the Ochoco, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman national forests, Jeffries said.
The Ochoco Forest is working with the South Fork John Day Watershed Council, Bureau of Land Management and Rockpile Ranch to conduct a restoration assessment for about 15 miles of Wind Creek, Jeffries said.
A draft environmental impact statement on the management of wild horses that wander from Big Summit Territory in the Ochoco forest to the Murderers Creek area in the Malheur forest is planned for release this summer, Jeffries said. Currently there are more horses than the environment can support, and reproduction is faster than mortality, he said.
• The court tabled a request by Grant County Clerk Brenda Percy for a stipend to compensate her for handling payroll. Myers initially motioned to deny Percy’s request.
• The court’s next meeting will be June 27.