Robson challengesdiscussion of tax sale

County Attorney Susan Robson told the Marion County Commission at its payday meeting Friday that $130,000 in delinquent taxes have been paid to the county as a result of real-estate-tax sale preparations, and she didn’t like the feeling of commissioners “talking behind her back” regarding newspaper coverage of their discussion of the sale last week.

Robson and the commissioners talked about the situation cordially, but Robson wanted to correct perceptions discussed at the meeting.

For one thing, Robson said the collections came from an original list of 95 that went down to 22 as property owners came in to redeem their bills. She said at least one more of the 22 will likely take care of the issue before the Feb. 7 deadline.

“If we don’t do this on a regular basis,” Robson said, “the number of delinquencies will get to over 100 like it was last time, and it will get to be a real nightmare.”

When Commissioner Howard Collett asked if there was no “economy of scale” letting it go to a greater number of properties, Robson replied, “None at all.”

She said the bill for title search from Hannaford Abstract & Title Co. at around $150 a title was very reasonable, and she added that attorneys couldn’t have done the job well for any less.

Considering commissioners’ comments reported by the press that perhaps alternative title search bids should be sought, the company had every right to feel upset, she said.

Robson said the last time the county put out title search for bid, the low bidder messed it all up, and the county still is trying to straighten it out. She said it is worthwhile to go to a qualified company.

County Clerk Carol Maggard said the total payday figure was $823,981, “a little staggering” considering it is usually around $600,000. But, she said, it’s more understandable when it’s realized that $124,179 is for the county’s annual insurance costs.

Sales tax received by the county in January for November sales was up at $42,432, Maggard said, compared to $41,297 for the same time a year ago-“the highest for that month since prior to 1999.”

The total sales tax received in 2003 was $451,576 compared to a low over the last five years in 2001 of $454,810, and a high in 2000 of $463,611.

Maggard, in reviewing accounts and inventories with the commissioners, said there was $68,892 in 2003 bills paid in January 2004, including $16,100 from the county general fund. The total outside the general fund included payments for things such as fire, water and sewer-improvement districts.

The three departments she listed that went over budget included: judicial, which was over by $4,400 at 105 percent attributable to attorney costs; the attorney’s office, over by $5,000 at 113 percent attributable to juvenile detention; and the sheriff’s office over by $3,000 at 115 percent attributable to jail costs.

After some discussion, Collett dissented from a majority vote by Commission Chairman Leroy Wetta and Commissioner Bob Hein to authorize Sheriff Lee Becker to purchase a 2001 Ford Crown Victoria equipped patrol car with under 50,000 miles on it for $11,000 from Kansas Highway Patrol surplus.

Collett said, “I think the impact on the general fund this early in the year is unreasonable.”

He added, regarding a truck with transmission out that the car would replace, “I say let that truck set until such time as we can trade it off for another vehicle.”

Collett had suggested perhaps letting area garages bid to put a transmission in the truck.

Wetta said with that age of a vehicle he hated to “get nickeled and dimed to death for repairs.”

Hein agreed it was likely something more would go wrong with the truck, and he didn’t think the sheriff’s office could come into any replacement vehicle more cheaply.

The commissioners authorized Gerald Kelsey, road and bridge director, proceed immediately with contacting normal bidders for immediate purchase of 13 50-foot steel bridge beams in light of warnings to Kelsey by providers of quickly rising steel prices.

Kelsey said the cost of beams has risen from $23.60 a pound in October to $27.70 a pound now, and is expected to rise another $2 a pound in the next two weeks. At the $27.70 rate, he said the purchase price for the 13 beams would be $11,163.10.

The commissioners accepted a $6,785.38 area fuel bid from Cardie Oil Co. of Tampa that included 800 gallons of diesel in area one at $1.0961 a gallon for $823.68, 2,156 gallons of diesel in area two at $1.0961 a gallon for $2,192.14, 1,800 gallons of diesel in area three at $1.04461 a gallon for $1,880.28, and 1,800 gallons of diesel at $1.0496 a gallon for $1,889.28.

The commissioners approved road crossing permits for Moundridge Telephone and Southwestern Bell.

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