The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

April 3, 2013

County receives bids on property lower than fees


TARBORO — The Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners discussed at length how they would like to deal with foreclosed property it now owns that is worth a total of $900,000 in taxes, Monday during its regularly scheduled meeting.

The county is already in the process of selling some of the property including four that was on last month's agenda and another seven that was on Monday's agenda.

"We have 48 properties that the county acquired with a tax value of over $900,000," said Edgecombe County Manager Lorenzo Carmon. "Staff goal is to try to put them back on the tax book so that somebody can start paying taxes on them as soon as they possibly can."

Foreclosed property is sold on the Edgecombe County courthouse steps to the higher bidder. Bidders usually bid significantly lower than the value of the property and also lower than the legal fees that the county has paid for it. Those extreme low bids raised the eyebrows of several commissioners Monday while they addressed accepting bids for seven pieces of property.

The most lopsided was for a bidder who offered $6,812 on 17 acres at 1512 Cox Ave., Rocky Mount that has a tax value of $102,180. The county has incurred $8,258 in legal fees and back taxes. Brian Hassell,  Edgecombe County Senior Planner, told the board the property appeared to have been developed for a subdivision that was not carried out.

After the commissioners discussed the possibility of selling the timber on the property, the board voted 6-1 to table the issue until Carmon and his staff look further in the matter. Chairman Jonathon Felton voted against it.  

 "I don't see why we would do this to him and we didn't do it to anybody else," Felton said.

Commissioner Viola Harris answered, "Because of the value of that property."

Commissioner Donald Boswell didn't like the low bids, either. He said in some instances the county is losing a considerable amount of money including the taxes and legal fees.

"Couldn't we place a minimum bid on it," he said. "We're giving some of this property away for nothing."

 The board unanimously accepted the bid for the remaining six properties including 1828 Lynn Avenue, Rocky Mount that has a tax value of $97,907. The bidder offered $3,598 for the 1-acre lot that already has a house on it. The board also unanimously accepted the bid for two properties during its February meeting.

The offers are not final. Another bidder can upset any of the bids. By law, a minimum of a 10-day public notice must be given for upset bids. The 10-day period begins the day that the notice is published in the newspaper.

Chairman Leonard Wiggins admitted that in previous years, the county tax collection was "poor." Carmon pointed out that since the board created a position specifically to collect back taxes the collection rate has increased.

When you guys created the delinquent tax collector position, this is what they have been doing," Carmon said. They are foreclosing on property of people who owed the highest amount of taxes first and worked their way down the list.

"There is no real good answer. That's why we alway start off with a dance and a struggle. That's why we start off with people who owe the most for the longest. We're in much better shape now than we were eight years ago before we started this process.

In other business the board unanimously approved a resolution to refinance a total of $26 million in loans that would save the county between $2 million and $2.8 million. The debt was incurred by loans for the county's water districts.