Check called ‘gift’

Published 11:26 am Friday, August 22, 2014

Even though the state hasn’t signed off on it, at least two Lawrence County Commissioners believe the $250,000 check following the sale of the Sherman Thompson Towers belongs to the county.

“It looks like it was a gift to the county,” Commissioner Bill Pratt said at Thursday’s regular commission meeting.

In August of last year Lawrence County and the City of Ironton each received checks for $250,000 as part of negotiations between the Ironton Metropolitan Housing Authority and the company that manages Sherman Thompson Towers.

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That was when ownership of the towers was transferred to LM Associates, the facility’s management company. The transfer was exempt from the conveyance fee, meaning no purchase price was reported. The housing authority owned the land the complex was on while LM had a lease agreement with the IMHA. In the lease was a clause stating that in 2032 the housing authority would then own the building as well as the property.

Earlier that year LeRoy Eslinger of LM Associates came to the commissioners to ask them to help negotiate with the housing authority to get the reversion clause removed. That effort resulted in the two $250,000 checks.

County Prosecuting Attorney Brigham Anderson, however, wanted the state auditor’s office to determine if the county could keep the money and to which funds it should be allocated.

“Since the prosecutor asked us to make a formal request of the Auditor of State, we have to wait until we receive that before we can distribute the money,” Chief Deputy Auditor Chris Kline said in an interview following the meeting.

That notification from the auditor’s office has not happened yet.

“We said from the beginning this was nothing more than a gift,” Commission President Les Boggs said. “Ironton went ahead and spent it.”

With the possibility of the LM Associates’ check and increased sales tax revenue Boggs is predicting healthy finances for the county.

“We could end this year financially better than in 30 years,” Boggs said.

He anticipates 2015 and 2016, however, to be financially challenging with the cost of moving the jail to Franklin Furnace and an extra pay period in 2016.

“We will have to roll up our sleeves,” he said.

County Treasurer Stephen Burcham reported sales tax for the year is up approximately $290,000 from this time last year.

“It is positive,” Burcham told the commission. “It reflects increased confidence in the economy.”

Burcham also reported his office will be offering Tax Ease $2 million in property tax liens for their consideration in a negotiated sale. Tax Ease has bought other tax liens from the county that did not sell during public sales.

In other action the commission:

• Authorized the county engineer to apply to the Ohio Public Works Commission capital improvement program to provide funding for repaving county and township roads;

• Authorized Burcham to make claims to the state for unclaimed funds on behalf of the county;

• Renamed the Centennial Fund the Lawrence County Bicentennial Fund;

• Received the weekly dog warden report where one dog was destroyed; 42 were adopted or sent to rescue and one was redeemed by its owner.