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Sanpete carries out tax sale,

despite litigation threat

 

By Kristi Shields 

Staff writer

7-23-2020

 

MANTI—Sanpete County Commissioners went forward with a property tax sale despite threats of litigation at their last meeting.

As of June 18, the county had 14 properties on tax sale, which are properties the government is forced to sell due to unpaid taxes by the property owner.

County Auditor Stacey Lyon said she received a protest by the owners of one of the properties, Jana Dahl and Richard Heftel, two weeks prior to the commission meeting.

The two owners claimed the resale of the property was done without proper notification; however, County Attorney Kevin Daniels said there was proper notification, including four publications in the newspaper and notices sent to the last known recorded owners’ addresses.

“The county is in statutory compliance, so from a legal perspective, I think we’re fine to move forward,” Daniels said. “If they wish to proceed toward litigation, that’s fine.”

Lyon said the two addresses on file were from a deed on Dahl’s first property and one on Heftel’s first property. The notifications were sent to both addresses, but returned unclaimed. Lyon said she did everything she could to find the correct addresses for them.

“When they move, it’s their responsibility to change their address,” Lyon said.

The owners’ attorney, Jack Brannelly, said the owners are not casting any allegation that the county didn’t do their job, but they’re still trying to get to the bottom of how the county got the improper addresses.

Brannelly said the couple received no other notice that there was an error until two weeks ago.

No prejudice was done to the county or the buyers, Brannelly said, but the prejudice is done toward Dahl and Heftel.

Heftel said, “We ask for pity and mercy to hold over so it can get a closer look.”

In response to the Commissioner Scott Bartholomew asking why he wasn’t paying taxes on his property for five years, Heftel said he has a financial institution involved in helping him pay for his properties, and assumed a third party was paying the taxes.

“Mr. Heftel and Dahl have no choice but to litigate because they can’t just walk away from this much of their retirement,” Brannelly said. “The property is too valuable to let go.”

The property sold for $50,000, and the amount unpaid tax was $3,174.27.

In regards to the finances of the county, Lyon said the county received a $116,000 grant that covers indigent defense. This leaves the county with $105,000 to cover for the remaining cost of the program.

“It’s okay, we still have $1 million left from last year … so that can help cover that cost,” Lyon said. “I’m still grateful for the $116,000 that we received in the grant money.”

Lyon also said the expenditures are right on track.

“I feel good about the financial situation right now,” Lyon said.

In other business, the commission discussed being part of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, which consists of eight counties.

The Central Utah District’s responsibility is to deliver clean, usable water to its customers by managing the vast Central Utah Project (CUP) and network of water facilities. The group works to maintain and improve those systems.

Commissioner Edwin Sunderland, who is also one of the district’s chiefs, said he is in favor of staying part of it.

On the other hand, Commissioner Steven Lund said, “If it were up to me, I would be out of this.”

He said he doesn’t see much money spent on projects in Sanpete County.

“When are we going to get water down here?” Lund asked. “Frankly, I think there is a real problem with this, and it would be my recommendation right now to get us out of it.”

Bartholomew agrees with Lund saying, projects that were promised when the county first joined the district, did not happen, and he doesn’t believe it ever will.

The Commissioners will talk further about the decision to remove the county from the district before making a final decision.