Fulton County loses $87G after online auction

By JAIME STUDD

Recorder News Staff

JOHNSTOWN -- Fulton County's attempt to rid itself of approximately two dozen vacant parcels via last month's online auction succeeded in that 16 of the 24 properties available will now be returned to the county's tax rolls.

The sales, however, resulted in a net loss of more than $87,000.

On Thursday, the Fulton County Board of Supervisors, upon the recommendation of its Finance Committee, voted to authorize the sale of the properties sold in the Nov. 27 online auction conducted by Haroff Auction & Realty, Inc. despite not a single bid having met the bid minimum's previously established by the board.

The properties in question were acquired by the county as the result of tax delinquencies totaling nearly $90,000. Last month's auction brought in just under $2,700.

According to the resolution authorizing the sale, passed unanimously by the board, it was the determination of the Finance Committee that selling the properties beneath the minimum bid "would be in the County's best interest" because it would allow the parcels to be placed "back on the active tax rolls."

Eleven of the properties up for auction sold for just $100, including parcels at 8 and 10 Getman St. in Gloversville, which were sold as one. That property netted the county it's biggest loss with a tax delinquency totaling more than $22,000.

The property at 78 Grand St. in Gloversville, brought in the highest bid of the auction at $600, but it's delinquency stood at more than $10,000.

Prior to the vote, Johnstown Ward 3 Supervisor Jack Callery wanted to know how exactly certain properties were allowed to linger so long as to accrue so much in delinquent taxes.

Fulton County Board of Supervisors Administrative Officer Jon Stead explained that the properties are not auctioned off until any structures on them are demolished, a process that can sometimes take years. In the meantime, assessments accrue.

"The assessments are not altered down even if the building is dilapidated," Stead explained.

During the Finance Committee's discussion of the matter prior to Thursday's full board meeting, Fulton County Treasurer Terry Blodgett said some of the properties have been on the county's demolition list for two or three years.

During that meeting, Stead explained that the city of Gloversville will not lower the assessment on its properties until the county completes the demolition process.

Stead said the results of the on-line auction were not entirely unexpected.

"It's a quick way to get rid of the leftover properties and so forth, but it does not get the exposure some of the other auctions get."

The November auction items are generally comprised of those properties that did not sell during the county's primary annual auction held in June.

Despite the dismal figures, Blodgett told the Finance Committee that it was in the county's best interest to sign off on the sales.

"The sooner we get these turned over in someone's name, the less taxes we're going to have to pay," Blodgett said.

For Gloversville 3rd Ward Supervisor Michael F. Gendron, Thursday's board of supervisors meeting was his last serving as its chairman.

"You never think this day's coming," Gendron said in delivering his final Chairman's Report to the board.

Gendron told the board that he was "optimistic" about the future of Fulton County, adding that he believed the 2012 board of supervisors had paved the way toward future success by strictly adhering to the three-year financial plan developed by the board in order to deal with increasing fiscal pressures.

Gendron also praised the sitting supervisors for their stellar attendance records and the board's administrative support staff for their hard work and dedication.

"They do an outstanding, professional job," said Gendron. "We're a small county, but we're powerful."

Gendron called particular attention to the efforts of Stead, who, he noted, "always makes the chair look good."

"Your dedication to Fulton County is to be commended," Gendron told Stead.

Gendron said he considered the board's effort to reduce the size of county government by reducing the number of its committees from 9 to 7 to be among its biggest accomplishments of the year.

"I think it worked," Gendron said.

He also noted four major economic development initiatives as being key to the county's future: The Fage expansion, the Tryon redevelopment and the construction of the Walmart Supercenter and the CG Roxane bottling plant.

"These four economic programs will spur Fulton County," said Gendron.

Finally, Gendron commended the efforts of the Finance Committee in crafting the county's 2013 budget, making special note of the fact that the county remains free from debt.

"The Finance committee should be commended for the extra effort," Gendron said.

"We did what we felt was good for the people we serve," he added. "It was Fulton County's budget, not Albany's budget."

Gendron also sent a final message as chairman to the taxpayers of Fulton County.

"Shop Fulton County and keep sales tax here," he said.

Gendron ended his farewell report with a special message to his fellow supervisors.

"I'm honored to have served with a committed group of colleagues that believes what we do is important," he said.