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Oil, gas rights create a bidding war at Jefferson County auditor’s sale

STEUBENVILLE — Last week’s auditor’s sale had unexpected results — a bidding war for properties in outlying areas, county officials said.

More than half of the 849 properties on the auditor’s list changed hands during the two days of the sale, they said.

“In the old days we’d have 300 properties for sale and no one would bid,” Lewis “Doby” Piergallini, chief deputy auditor, real estate division, said, pointing out some of the parcels on the Oct. 31 sale list “we’d actually tried before, sometimes 10 times, and they didn’t sell. But the tide has changed.”

“The auditor’s valuation in some cases was several hundred dollars but they actually brought in several thousand dollars, usually due to the oil and gas under the land,” Piergallini said. “It created a bidding war.”

The in-demand properties were outside corporate limits, so buyers could, if they choose, take advantage of mineral rights. There was much less interest in properties within city limits.

“All the properties were started at $100 because we’ve tried to sell them so many times,” Piergallini said.

Assistant Jefferson County Prosecutor Cerryn Marshall said 435 properties changed hands during the sale, which took two days because of the unexpected interest that was shown.

“With the sale of those 435 properties we made $245,000,” added Marshall, who oversaw the sale. “We’re happy about it.”

Chief Deputy Auditor Vickie Winski said they use the proceeds from the sale of the property to pay the delinquent taxes first. “It’s like a normal tax collection — some goes to the school, some is distributed to the township, you pay any levies that happen to be on there,” she said. “So they all benefit from tax money being paid.”

A portion also covers the costs incurred in bringing the property to sale, including any publishing, recording and filing fees. What’s left goes into a fund to help pay for future auditor’s sales.

Piergallini points out properties on the auditor’s sale list “haven’t generated taxes for years, so now we can get them back on the tax rolls.”

“They go back on the tax roll so, hopefully, now we can actually be collecting taxes on them every year,” Winski said.

Winski said some of the properties that changed hands had been on the sale list since the 1990s.

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