PDT Staff Writer
Scioto County Prosecutor Mark Kuhn says he has designated two assistant prosecutors, Danielle Parker and Shane Tieman, the daunting task of working on property foreclosures with the city of Portsmouth’s Land Reutilization program. The prosecutor’s office is used to dealing with 40 to 50 properties a year. Now, the city is potentially adding an additional 75 properties to the mix.
Kuhn said it needs to be made clear that they don’t want to foreclose on anyone’s property. They’d prefer that owners pay the back taxes and clean-up the property. Kuhn said the process has already begun on 70 of the city’s properties, and the other five will have to wait until after the new certification list comes out in August.
“One of the concerns I had is 75 properties, even if only 50 of those go to foreclosure, the problem is that there is a ton of properties in the city of Portsmouth where the property is not worth what the minimum bid is going to be on these,” Kuhn said. “The minimum bid at a sheriff’s sale is the lesser of either taxes and assessments plus court costs, or fair market value plus court costs, and unfortunately a lot of vacant lots and a lot of dilapidated vacant houses are just not worth what we can sell them for.”
Kuhn said part of the monies the prosecutor’s office gets each year is for delinquent tax collection, money set aside from foreclosures. He said the monies for that have been one of the few instances in which the balance has built up over the years.
“Some of that money goes to what Danielle does with the tax foreclosure program. She also represents the treasurer, and in recent years has been involved in 250 to 300 bank foreclosures that the treasurer is interested in for the tax assessments,” Kuhn said. “But the idea of doing 50 to 75 more would mean that we would have to do nothing but the city’s cases for the next year. That’s hard to do because we’ve got a lot of local government out in the county — the townships, the villages, the schools, that are real interested in a lot of delinquencies out there.”
Kuhn said that because there is a current availability of funds, he could bring on another assistant prosecutor to help Parker.
“Shane Tieman has been doing some work in the prosecutor’s office. He helped us out about a year-and-a-half ago when we were short a person and worked grand jury for me. He stayed on doing some trial work since then, and he has agreed to expand his hours and do some of these tax foreclosures,” Kuhn said. “So he’s going to work directly with the city’s reutilization program. One thing the (Scioto County) Commissioners were happy to hear about when I talked with them about this is it will not utilize any General Fund monies. It will use only the money set aside for this purpose.”
Portsmouth City Health Commissioner Chris Smith said the Land Reutilization program is the result of an ordinance passed by the city five years ago. He said any property that is on the tax delinquent list for two or more years, and is vacant, or are just vacant lots, people are sent a notice and given 30 days to respond to the Scioto County Treasurer’s office and pay the taxes or work out a tax payment plan. Kuhn said Treasurer Bill Ogg has a history of working out payment plans especially with the elderly. If that is not done, the prosecutor can foreclose on them and if no one sells them through the sheriff’s sale, the city can take ownership and sell those properties at fair market value. Recently, 14 properties were foreclosed on, and 11 have been sold to individuals in the community.
Smith said all liens and taxes against the properties are stripped in order for people to purchase the properties. He is glad when someone purchases property at a sheriff’s sale because that is one less property the city has to take ownership of and deal with.
Parker said sheriff’s sales are mainly Wednesday’s at 1 p.m. in the Scioto County Courthouuse.
“There are general procedures that we follow for each case, but each case can be different, depending on if there are any liens or any interest mortgage holders on the property,” Tieman said. “So each case has to be narrowly tailored to that property and that owner.”
Parker said there is a procedure the county follows for a sheriff’s sale, and she says there is more of an interest in recent sales.
“We go down and see if someone shows up to buy the property,” Parker said. “We’ve had a lot more interest in people buying the properties that actually go up for sheriff’s sale. We have some local businessmen who will buy houses for rental property or even to flip and sell again. And they’ve shown a lot of interest here lately. They’ve been showing up at almost every sheriff’s sale.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com