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Tax-acquired St. Lawrence County properties go on the block Saturday

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CANTON - The sale of St. Lawrence County tax-acquired properties will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday at Lockwood Arena in Ogdensburg.

Registration begins at 9 a.m.

“There’s always a lot of interest, whether people buy something or not,” County Treasurer Kevin M. Felt said.

As of mid-day Thursday, the county planned to have auctioneer Gregory J. Walsh sell 161 properties, but that number was expected to decline as former owners have until 5 p.m. today to pay back taxes and redeem their parcels.

“A lot of people wait until the last day,” Mr. Felt said.

Last year, the county ended up auctioning off 136 properties. The number of unredeemed properties has crept up by about 20 parcels over the last five years, Mr. Felt said.

This year’s sale includes a number of livable homes, but it will not include the George W. and Dacie Clements Agricultural Research Institute on Route 37 in the town of Lisbon, which was redeemed.

The sale will include several properties once contaminated that were cleaned up by the state and will be available without fear of having to pay remediation costs, and another property — the former Alaskan Oil Station on Route 68 near Ogdensburg — that was determined to be free of contamination.

“There’s no reason to have it sit there if it’s clean,” Mr. Felt said.

The state spent more than $3 million to clean up contamination at four properties in Stockholm, Clifton, DePeyster and Parishville, which represent $56,000 in back taxes.

The county, working with environmental attorney Gary S. Bowitch, worked out an arrangement with the state to split proceeds from the sales, which will include releases from liability.

The county has more than two dozen properties in varying degrees of contamination that could be cleaned up and sold or tested for the extent of pollutants if money were available and the state were willing to go along with the same arrangement, county attorney Michael C. Crowe said.

The county uses proceeds from the auction to pay itself back the tax money it advanced to municipalities where the delinquent properties were located. Any excess has in years past gone to an environmental remediation fund, used to pay for testing and expenses of contaminated properties. The fund is down to under $50,000, but it is uncertain whether Saturday’s sale will help replenish the account, Mr. Felt said.

“The hope is we at least break even,” he said.

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