By: Susan Willett, Publisher
Associated Newspapers of Michigan
Well butter my bus and call me a biscuit, but I was as surprised as the members of the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees recently.
During the regular meeting of that esteemed body, one of their own members, Chuck Curmi, had the audacity to question his fellow trustees, Supervisor Richard Reaume and Treasurer Ron Edwards about a story we printed regarding the efforts of the City of Detroit to take back property that was erroneously sold to the township last September.
The supervisor could only shrug his shoulders when asked about the situation and the treasurer claimed that no one from Detroit ever contacted them. Strange, I thought, since we have been warning them for months that this was about to happen. Their response was to question the accuracy of the story, or anyway, that’s how I interpreted it. (OK, so I am wicked sensitive about these guys, so maybe that’s not what they meant, but I’m still annoyed.)
The implication, to me, was that the story was inaccurate which is pure bovine residue. They claimed they hadn’t seen any such affidavit, which was also strange since I have a copy of it, as did every other news outlet. I still have my copy filed by Timothy Beckett, the attorney for the City of Detroit, if any of these geniuses wants to see it. They’d probably have to find an attorney familiar with land transfer procedures to read it to them and then explain it…I know I did…but it’s pretty clear, even to me.
The Plymouth Township Assessor’s Office, directed by Reaume who gave a 20-minute power-point presentation about the efficiency of that same office just prior to this revelation, which, I admit, made me laugh, is responsible, it would appear, for this property transfer fiasco. The township borrowed about $600,000 from the Bank of Ann Arbor to buy 323 acres of land at a Wayne County Tax Sale.
Now that’s what I would call a sweet deal because this land was on the tax rolls at one time for a true cash value of about $16 million. Sounds like a real bargain to me.
The only problem with this too-good-to-be-true deal is that it WAS too good to be true.
The fact was that the township assessor’s office (Hello, Mr. Reaume) never properly recorded the name of the owner of one section of that land. So, based on that incorrect information provided by Plymouth Township, Wayne County went ahead and sold them the land for back taxes. Detroit isn’t too happy about that, but then, who would be? They never got a bill and never knew they owed the taxes. Beckett has now recorded the affidavit with the Registrar of Deeds and is working to reclaim Detroit’s property.
Our newspaper has been reporting on this whole fiasco for literally months, since Detroit first decided that maybe the township shouldn’t have failed to record the proper owner of the land and then jump on the chance to “buy” it from the county when the taxes weren’t paid. Seemed a little strange to me that this was all such a huge surprise to everyone but Curmi, who apparently, is the only member of the board who can read.
It doesn’t take much of a conspiracy theorist to smell something really rotten at the basis of this deal, whether its incompetence or malfeasance, or maybe a little of each, is difficult to discern.
Now, rather than the 323 acres the township borrowed more than half a million dollars to buy, they have 133 acres, 77 of which are in a floodplain or are declared wetland. State law says Detroit can also sue for the true cash value of the land, which could get way ugly.
Especially if the new emergency financial manager in Detroit is as crackerjack at numbers as is claimed.
Oh, and by the way, to answer the only real question Edwards and Reaume seemed to have when presented with questions about losing the land, the $606,000 loan and facing a lawsuit from Detroit which was “Who wrote the story?”
|News Plymouth Michigan