PRESTONSBURG — A pair of auctions held over the weekend to help the fiscal court dig out of a predicted shortfall ran into some snags, when bidding on the Martin Community Center did not reach the reserve price and one person who won auctions for several vehicles is not expected to take delivery.
Regardless, the court learned Monday that the county will likely have enough money to avoid defaulting on a $700,000 bond payment at the end of the month, although after that point, the county’s finances will get very dicey.
During an auction of surplus vehicles at the county garage Saturday, Harpo Castle submitted winning bids on four items, totaling $12,800. However, according to county treasurer David Layne, Castle notifed county road supervisor Mike Jarrell afterwards that he planned to pay for the vehicles by simply offsetting the amount from the nearly $160,000 in unpaid bills he has submitted to the court.
Layne said the terms of the auction would not allow such an arrangement. Terms of sale at the auction required a payment of 10 percent down, with the balance due within 30 days.
Castle has been at odds with magistrates over a number of bills for work he completed four years ago at the direction of Judge-Executive R.D. “Doc” Marshall. In addition to the $160,000 in invoices already submitted, Castle has indicated there are another $850,000 in bills he has not yet submitted.
Castle apparently made the 10 percent deposit, so County Attorney Keith Bartley advised magistrates that they should honor the 30-day period for him to complete the sale.
On Tuesday, the court voted to offer the vehicles to the second-place bidder, if Castle does not meet the deadline.
During the vehicle auction, the county raised $32,650.
Castle was also a central figure at a property auction later Saturday. When the Martin Community Center first went up for bid, Castle offered $300,000, just shy of the reserve amount. Over the course of three appraisals, the center was valued at between $425,000 and $450,000, leaving a reserve price between $318,750 and $337,500.
Marshall indicated prior to Tuesday’s meeting that Castle had planned to pay for the center by deducting the price from the bills he owes the county. When the county refused that arrangement, Castle did not offer a 10 percent down payment and the property went up for sale again. The second time, the high bid was $100,000, far short of the reserve price.
On Tuesday, the court narrowly decided to list the center with Century 21, under a 90-day contract. Century 21 would receive 5 percent of the purchase price, if the property sells. Magistrates split on the measure, with District 1’s John Goble and District 4’s Ronnie Akers voting in favor of the move, and District 2’s Hattie Owens and District 3’s Warren Jarrell voting against it. Marshall broke the tie by voting in favor of listing the property.
Another piece of property offered for auction, a small tract of hillside property near the Prestonsburg Village Shopping Center, was sold to Leonard Hall for $10,750.
During Tuesday meeting, Layne also revealed that cost-cutting measures enacted by the court in December and January had created enough space in the county’s budget to make it possible for the court to meet its scheduled $700,000 bond payment at the end of the month, but only just barely. Layne said his projections of anticipated revenues and expenses, coupled with cash currently on hand, would leave the county with $80,000, after making the payment.
“So, you think at the rate we’re going, we’ll be able to make that bond payment, regardless of whether we sell the property?” Bartley asked.
Layne simply held up two crossed fingers in response.
After the meeting, Layne said the good news about the bond payment would still leave the county short of being able to pay its bills in March, if the community center does not sell before then.