By Jeanie Hankins
Wickenburg Town Council continues to wait for a resolution to the Forepaugh Property debacle. According to Town Manager Vince Lorefice, a couple of possible solutions are on the horizon.
On Monday evening Lorefice told Council a local businessman has made an offer to purchase the Forepaugh Property, and progress has been made toward reducing the amount of taxes owed on the land.
In 2016, the Town and Wickenburg Economic Development Partnership entered an agreement in which the Town conveyed 77.5 acres of property 16 miles west of Wickenburg to WEDP for $10 with the understanding that it would be developed into an industrial facility to foster economic growth and bring jobs to the area. In 2017, WEDP requested a contract amendment, to which the Town agreed, which required WEDP to pay fair market price for the property – approximately $245,000. WEDP was also required to open an escrow account with $50,000 to begin the transaction. The escrow account was never opened and the sale of the property did not take place by the deadline. Meanwhile, WEDP failed to pay property taxes for three years. To protect the property from other interests, the Town of Wickenburg earlier this year paid $59,769.77 for the overdue 2017 taxes. Meanwhile, the taxes for 2018 and 2019 are also due, for a total of approximately $179,000 for the three years. In addition to the taxes owed, there are currently two liens against the property totaling $102,541.61. One was filed by former WEDP employee Denise Stieger; and the other by David Cameron of Dewey.
Lorefice said Monday the local investor has made an offer which would “make the town whole,” by covering fair market value and the liens. Lorefice and WEDP President Alan Abare are actively working with the buyer.
In addition to having identified a potential buyer, Lorefice said he is hopeful that significant tax bills on the property will be resolved in the near future as well. When the property was owned by the Town of Wickenburg, it did not accrue property tax, however when it was transferred to the Partnership it began to quickly add up. The property was assessed at a value of $6.8 million, and taxed as such for 2017, ’18 and ’19. At the request of the Town and Partnership, Maricopa County assessor’s office recently reevaluated the property and found it to have an assessed value of only $280,000 – not $6.8 million. Foreseeably, then the next action would be for the County Treasurer’s Office to agree to correct the amount of taxes owed in those years. Rather than, $179,000 in taxes due, the amount might be reduced to around $10,000, Lorefice estimated. He is waiting for a decision from the county treasurer’s office.
Town Council discussed the situation Monday evening in executive session. Following the closed meeting, Mayor Rui Pereira said the Council and staff will “continue with proceedings, and the process is progressing nicely.”