Out-of-state bidders sabotaged the county’s June 6 deed sale.

The group, which has attended other Indiana counties’ deed sales, did not follow through on winning bids and pay for the properties. Winning bids on 14 properties totaled nearly $4 million, including $3.5 million for one North 17th Street property with a boarded-up house. Following the morning sale, bidders had until 3 p.m. to pay for their properties, and only two, both who bid $100 for land without structures, did so.

Serious bidders, including county residents, were prevented from acquiring the 14 other properties, which would add them back onto county property tax rolls. Commissioner Jeff Plasterer said that most of the 14 properties would have been sold during the auction, which is conducted by SRI Services of Indianapolis.

Wayne County’s commissioners discussed during their June 7 meeting problems caused by the failed sales.

Properties are eligible for deed sales when property taxes are not paid, but to put the properties in the sale, a judge must deed the properties to the commissioners. That makes the commissioners responsible for property upkeep, such as mowing the lawns. Plasterer suggested a preemptive meeting with Richmond Mayor Dave Snow and the city’s code enforcement department to discuss the unkept properties.

Commissioners prefer to conduct another sale as quickly as possible; however, they are researching how to possibly boost presale bidder requirements to prevent similar actions.

Commissioners also discussed filing a report with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office for consideration of criminal charges. Ron Cross, the county’s attorney, recommended involving the U.S. Attorney’s Office to evaluate a charge such as conspiracy to commit fraud for bidding without intending to honor the bids.

No final decisions were made regarding the sale issues.

Commissioner change

During the meeting, Mary Anne Butters told her fellow commissioners that she would not seek reelection in 2024.

Butters is serving her third term as the representative for District 2 in central Wayne County. She said announcing her decision now provides seven months for interested individuals to consider their candidacy prior to election filings beginning.

Election of a new commission will result in a complete makeover of the commissioners within four years. Plasterer replaced Denny Burns, who also chose not to pursue a fourth term, in 2021, and Brad Dwenger, who defeated Ken Paust in last year’s primary, took office this year.

Speed limit

Mike Sharp, the county’s highway superintendent, received commissioner approval to temporarily reduce the speed limit on a section of Mineral Springs Road.

Reconstruction of a U.S. 40 bridge west of Centerville is increasing traffic on Mineral Springs between U.S. 40 and College Corner Road. That stretch of road is unmarked, so its speed limit is 55 miles per hour. The county will install 45 mph signs to improve safety during the bridge work.

U.S. 40 is expected to be closed into December.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 14 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.