A piece of property that was at the center of a controversy several months ago was back on the county’s agenda this week.
The property south of New Haven became controversial after the Franklin County Commission voted to sell it to Chris Boone for $1 in May.
The commission then reversed course in June and opened the property up for bids in response to some residents who felt that the land sale should have been done through a competitive public process.
Liens Crop Up
New Haven resident Ron Keeven was the high bidder on the parcel, offering $10 for the .120 acre in the Whispering Valley development. A condition of the sale was that Keeven raze a dilapidated house on the property within 60 days. But Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said Tuesday that the house had not been torn down.
Keeven could not be reached for comment, but his wife, Lois, spoke to The Missourian about the issue Thursday.
She said Keeven was proceeding to close on the property and then discovered that it had two liens against it — one for $7,138 and another for $200. Once he found the liens, that stalled the process, Lois Keeven said.
County Counselor Mark Vincent said the county never promised title to the property.
“As everybody recalls we informed everyone up front that we were not guaranteeing title in any way, and that would be their responsibility,” Vincent told the commissioners Tuesday.
Keeven asked for extra time to resolve the title issues, Vincent said.
“I have not heard from Mr. Keeven since then,” Vincent said. “He told me he would have it within 30 days; I’ve not seen the certificate of title. I have no idea if the title’s clean or not.”
Lois Keeven said Vincent sent her husband a letter last week asking what he planned on doing with the property. But Lois Keeven said her husband has been out of town. She added that the letter did not mention that the county commission would rescind the land sale to Keeven, which is what happened Tuesday.
Keeven “failed to comply with the requirements of the bid award,” the order rescinding the property purchase states. The order adds that “it is apparent that Ron Keeven has no desire to acquire the property at issue.”
Now, Boone, who made the original offer for $1, no longer wants to buy the property, Vincent said.
“Since we awarded it to Mr. Keeven, Mr. Boone said, ‘Thanks a lot guys. I was trying to do you guys a favor, but now I’m out of the game. I don’t want it,’ ” Vincent said.
Moreover, the county lost $618 by purchasing public notices to advertise the property in the bid process, Vincent noted. Lois Keeven said it is not her husband’s fault that the county spent money advertising the property.
Since the land sale to Keeven failed to go through, the county is back to where it was with the property except that now the county is out the $618 that was spent advertising the land, Vincent added.
After the commission approved selling the land for $1 the first time, Krakow resident Dean Riegel said he felt that the sale was handled in an unethical manner.
Riegel said he felt that the land sale was handled “under the table” and through a “buddy system.”
Boone is Riegel’s ex-brother-in-law. Griesheimer and First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker have questioned whether Riegel was making an issue out of the land sale because Boone is his ex-brother-in-law.
Riegel denied this claim, saying his concerns over the property had nothing to do with Boone being his ex-brother-in-law. Riegel said he was just a concerned citizen.
There should have been public bids accepted for the parcel the first time instead of the county just selling the land to Boone for $1, Riegel asserted.
But commissioners said they felt that the land sale was handled properly because they were just trying to get the property, which they said was a liability, off of the county’s books and back on the tax rolls. Moreover, the county saw it as a savings to sell it to Boone for $1 since it would have spared taxpayers the cost of razing the house on the property.
Vincent said it was not required by law to seek bids on the property, but the commissioners did it anyway after residents complained.
Moreover, the commissioners said the county tried unsuccessfully three times to sell the land in a tax sale, which would have covered the amount of delinquent taxes owed.
But no one bid on the property in the tax sales, which left the land on the county’s books.
Brinker said he approached Boone at a Franklin County Municipal League event about the property. After that, the commissioners approved selling the land to Boone for $1 with the condition that the old house on the property be torn down.