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St. Lawrence County will sell Morristown a house

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CANTON — A condemned house wanted by the village of Morristown had St. Lawrence County legislators talking again of creating a policy on dealing with foreclosed properties.

“Every few years, we have this discussion,” said Legislator Alex A. MacKinnon, R-Fowler. “In the final analysis, it’s case by case because every case is so different.”

In the latest example, legislators at a committee meeting Monday agreed to sell for $1 a vacant house at 402 Gouverneur St., Morristown, that the village wants for its Department of Public Works.

“The current building we’re in dates back to the 1900s,” Morristown Superintendent of Public Works Kevin J. Crosby said. “There is no bathroom.”

The DPW garage is not big enough to house all of the village’s vehicles, Mayor Cheryl A. Shatraw said. If the sale from the county goes through, Morristown plans to demolish the house at its expense and put up a four-stall garage with an office.

“We’re not looking for anything fancy,” Mr. Crosby said.

The old DPW, which is next to the foreclosed vacant house, then could be used for storage or torn down. The house, owned by Beverly I. Morley, Hammond, was acquired by the county after $10,915.30 in back taxes accumulated. The legislative action would remove it from the annual public auction of tax-acquired property. The owner still could redeem the property for the amount of the back taxes before the sale.

When property taxes are not paid on a property, the county makes affected municipalities whole.

“I believe we should still strive for a policy to get some reimbursement back,” said Legislator Mark H. Akins, R-Lisbon.

However, the county recoups its costs at the auction, where it generally makes more than what is owed in back taxes, said Legislator Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction.

The county has continued to make tax payments to municipalities on several blighted properies even though the properties will never be sold because they have some kind of problem, such as contamination.

At some point, the back taxes on those can be deemed uncollectible and the property taken off the rolls, County Treasurer Kevin M. Felt said.

In the case of the Morristown property, the village is doing the right thing by planning to clean up the condemned house, Mr. Morrill said.

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