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Tax-foreclosed eyesores could be cleaned up soon

Richard Hanners

Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on August 14, 2018 5:21PM

Left to right, Forest Planner Kathleen Schnider and Prairie City District Ranger Ed Guzman present the Cliff Knox Project to the Grant County Court on Aug. 8.

The Eagle/Richard Hanners

Left to right, Forest Planner Kathleen Schnider and Prairie City District Ranger Ed Guzman present the Cliff Knox Project to the Grant County Court on Aug. 8.

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Grant County Justice of the Peace Kathy Stinnett explains her request for a part-time employee to help with the growing number of cases in Justice Court.

The Eagle/Richard Hanners

Grant County Justice of the Peace Kathy Stinnett explains her request for a part-time employee to help with the growing number of cases in Justice Court.

Buy this photo

Residents in Prairie City and Long Creek could soon see two eyesores cleaned up now that the county has moved forward to taking possession of the abandoned properties.

Both properties are in tax foreclosure. The Grant County Court held a public hearing Aug. 8 for an ordinance to reduce the redemption period for the two properties. The normal period is two years, but it can be sped up under emergencies, such as for health and safety.

The hearing will continue Aug. 29. If the ordinance is approved, the county can take possession of the properties right away. Grant County Assessor David Thunell said his staff spent significant time trying to notify the owners of the two properties about the process.

The house on Bridge Street in Prairie City has posed a safety hazard since it burned down April 9, 2017, with loose metal siding blowing around in strong winds. Taxes on the property have been delinquent since 2005, Thunell said.

Two abandoned single-wide trailer homes sit among tall weeds at the Long Creek property along Highway 402. A neighbor told the court the property hasn’t been occupied for 10 years. Taxes on the property have been delinquent since 2012.

Grant County Judge Scott Myers said the county could sell the properties as is, and the new owners would be responsible for cleaning them up. Thunell said he already knew of interested buyers.

In other court news:

• The county court approved a request by Justice of the Peace Kathy Stinnett for part-time help handling clerical duties in Justice Court.

The court clerk works 32 hours per week, but a growing caseload is overwhelming the court, which is closed on Fridays. The court agreed to create a regular part-time position for Justice Court at 19 hours per week. Budgeting for the $17,000 per year position will be determined at a later time, Myers said. Stinnett agreed to try and keep Justice Court open at least half a day on Fridays.

• The court discussed in general terms how it will review and comment on the proposed Blue Mountains Forest Plan revision. Myers said he is the only remaining court member from when the court commented on the plan in 2014.

Commissioner Jim Hamsher noted that one of the county’s 2014 comments referred to protecting Grant County’s customs and culture.

Court members met with the Eastern Oregon Counties Association the prior week and discussed concerns about provisions in the forest plan for grazing, roads, wilderness and study areas. EOCA commented on the forest plan in 2014, Myers noted.

Objections to the plan must be linked to comments made in 2014, but the plan documents are lengthy and complex, so a review is time-consuming and difficult. The current 60-day objection period ends Aug. 28.

Commissioner Rob Raschio suggested it might not be a good idea to make an objection that the county isn’t willing to back up with time-consuming and expensive litigation. He said it might be better to save that time and money for the upcoming Malheur National Forest travel management plan.

Several people urged the court to take testimony from the public to help them prepare objections. Hamsher suggested holding a public hearing for input, but Myers said he’d prefer to take written comments from the public.

• The court unanimously agreed to not pay membership dues to the Local Government Personnel Institute. Raschio said he was opposed to paying the $1,559 per year dues if the county can still pay for services on a case-by-case basis. Myers noted the county didn’t use LGPI’s services very often.

• The next Grant County Court meeting will be Aug. 29.



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