The Franklin County Commission Tuesday accepted bids on a controversial piece of publicly owned property.
County resident and past commission candidate Ron Keeven had the highest bid of $10 for the 0.120-acre parcel in the Whispering Valley development south of New Haven.
The county commission took the bids under advisement and plan to make an award at the July 16 meeting.
The property became controversial after Krakow resident Dean Riegel accused the county commissioners of handling the original land deal in an unethical manner.
County commissioners had originally voted 3-0 to sell the land for $1 to Chris Boone. But after Riegel raised an issue over the sale, the commissioners agreed to seek public bids for the parcel.
Keeven said part of the reason he bid on the property was to make a statement that he disagreed with how the commissioners handled the land deal originally.
“I’ve made a statement saying I really don’t think the way it was handled the first time was the correct way,” Keeven said. “I think this (public bid process) was the correct way.”
Moreover, Keeven said the land borders his farm and therefore he would like some insight in terms of what takes place in the Whispering Valley development.
Under the Table?
Riegel alleged that the county commission handled the original land deal “under the table” and through a “buddy system.”
The county commission strongly disagrees with Riegel’s accusations, saying the land sale was handled properly. They say the property was offered in a public tax sale three times with no offers.
However, when the property was offered in the tax sale the price was higher because it covered the amount of back taxes. Riegel said not everyone was given a chance to buy the land for $1 the first time.
The commissioners should have had another call for public interest when the county decided to sell the land for $1, Riegel said.
First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker has said that he approached Boone about the $1 land deal at a Franklin County Municipal League event.
The goal was to get the property out of the county’s ownership so it would get back on the tax rolls and stop being a county liability, officials have said.
Part of the deal with Boone was that he had to tear down the old house on the property.
After Riegel complained about the land deal, the commissioners agreed to seek public bids for the parcel.
Riegel did not place a bid, and County Commissioners Brinker and John Griesheimer said this indicates Riegel may have had ulterior motives in making an issue out of the land deal with Boone.
Brinker and Griesheimer noted that Boone is Riegel’s ex-brother-in-law.
Riegel said this had nothing to do with him making an issue out of the land deal, saying he is just a citizen upset with how it was handled.
Boone’s original offer of $1 with the condition the house be torn down is still on the table as a bid.
Those who bid on the property had to agree to have the old house at the site torn down within 60 days of closing the sale. The county will pay the closing costs.
The cost of demolition was another reason the county agreed to sell the property for such a small amount of money, Griesheimer said. The county building department has estimated the demolition and disposal costs at more than $10,000, Griesheimer said.
Keeven said he does not think it will cost that much.
“I don’t think it’s going to be close to that,” Keeven said. “Basically, I will be doing most of it myself.”
Other bidders were county residents Art LeBeau, who bid $7, and Eric Reichert, who offered $7.49. But Reichert’s bid was not accepted because he did not comply with the bid rules, county officials say.