The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

December 21, 2013

Wisconsin bank buys Miller Ridge

By Katie Dahlstrom
Assistant Editor

---- — CLINTON — As the Clinton City Council forgave $26,000 in sewer penalties for embattled apartment complex Miller Ridge Friday morning, a Wisconsin bank was purchasing the property for $450,000. 

Layton State Bank, the bank that stepped in to foreclose on the property in August 2012, purchased the property through a sheriff's sale for a fraction of the $3.3 million that was being sought. The bank's was the sole bid.

During the council's Friday morning meeting, members voted unanimously to give the bank a small break on penalties that have accumulated over delinquent sewer charges. The council's action to forgive $26,000 doesn't forgive any of the actual sewer bills, only the 1 percent penalty the complex incurred that has gone to lien.

"What I felt we could do, because we do this for anybody else who walks into our office and is going to be making a lump sum payment, if they ask for the forgiveness of penalty, we will work with them and we will write off the penalty," City Administrator Jessica Kinser explained. 

In its petition for foreclosure, the bank claimed the complex's owners owed more than $3.5 million in mortgage payments, $382,357 in unpaid city sewer bills and housing inspection fees, $453,903 in property taxes and continued to violate numerous local fire and building codes. Joseph Miller previously owned the property, but filed bankruptcy during the city's lien process.

The bank has been acting as a receiver, collecting rents and payments from tenants at 2604 N. Fourth St., for several months. They are current on the sewer bills incurred while overseeing the property, according to Kinser.

Before the council discussed the forgiveness, incoming councilmen Tom Determann, at-large, and Ed O'Neill, Ward 3, objected to the waiving the penalties. 

"I understand that this is not a popular request to have, but this was the maximum that I thought we could offer Layton State Bank in a show of fairness in looking at the liens that have been placed on the property," Kinser added.

City Attorney Jeff Farwell confirmed At-large Councilwoman Jennifer Graf's suspicion that such deals are common practice in Clinton and places other than the city.

"Everybody compromises debt in order to get paid," Farwell said.

The outstanding sewer bills will be repaid as part of the sheriff's sale, he added.

A representative of Layton State Bank was not available to speak about plans for the complex.