Niagara County's tax foreclosure auction was a big success, County Treasurer David S. Broderick reported to a County Legislature committee Tuesday.
The auction Saturday at Niagara County Community College resulted in the sale of 57 pieces of real estate for bids totaling $674,250.
In addition, former owners of 23 parcels reclaimed their property by paying back taxes, interest and penalties totaling $208,958, and the county privately sold seven small parcels, which Broderick decided wouldn't bring in any bids at the auction, for a total of $208.
This year's foreclosure process thus brought in a total of $883,416. The full Legislature is to vote to approve the bids next week, after the Administration Committee gave them the nod Tuesday.
By far the largest bid received was the $194,000 purchase of a vacant 26.4-acre parcel, zoned commercial, on the east side of South Transit Road in Lockport, a short distance south of Rapids Road.
The buyer, Kevin J. Hausrath of Amherst, declined to discuss his plans for the property when reached by telephone Tuesday.
In other matters, the committee shelved a proposal to give breaks on county taxes to people who renovate vacant commercial buildings in Niagara Falls into mixed-use projects combining business and residential.
County Attorney Claude A. Joerg said he was warned earlier in the day by an attorney for the state Office of Real Property Services that they were examining the legality of the whole idea, even though it's sanctioned by state law. He said the issue could be reopened depending on the report from Albany.
Assistant County Attorney R. Joseph Foltz said the issue seems to be whether it's constitutional for a county to tax the same type of property differently in one municipality than it does in another. The state law allows for the mixed-use tax break to be approved by individual cities, towns and school districts, and then the county is allowed to join in, but only where the local governments have acted first.
Thus, a mixed-use building in Niagara Falls could receive a 12-year break on its county taxes, while a mixed-use building someplace else would be fully taxed.
The five Niagara Falls legislators had co-sponsored the proposal after the tax benefit was approved by the Niagara Falls City Council and Board of Education.
Also Tuesday, the committee approved the use of a three-year state homeland security grant to help pay for patrols of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario by the Sheriff's Office Marine Division.
Acting Sheriff Samuel J. Muscarella said the money, totaling $420,000, will offset overtime and other personnel costs. Dubbed Operation Stonegarden, the grant pays for the county boats to join the U.S. Border Patrol in looking for terrorists trying to enter the country by water.
Muscarella said another three-year grant, totaling $119,412, has come from Albany to help pay for improving reception and tracking of 911 calls from cell phones.