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Attorney Don Petersen asks the Davison County commissioners Tuesday at the courthouse to invalidate a July 10 public auction, as client Jeff Bathke, left, studies documents.

$50,000 mixup spoils Davison County land sale

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Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

A do-over.

That's what Davison County commissioners authorized Tuesday at the courthouse as they voted unanimously to invalidate the results of a July 10 auction of public land and to hold a new auction.

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"I think there was confusion and I think we ought to do it right," said Commissioner Randy Reider.

The action came at the request of winning bidder Jeff Bathke, who also works as the county planning and zoning administrator. On July 10, Bathke bid $180,000 for the 3 acres of county land south of the Public Safety Center. He gave an $18,000 down payment.

On Tuesday, Bathke, represented by Mitchell attorney Don Petersen, presented a written request asking the commissioners to rescind the auction and refund his down payment because of confusing information he said was presented at the time of the auction. The commissioners approved both requests.

The land for sale was appraised at $188,590 by local appraiser Alan Hatzenbeller, but the commissioners later decided to remove 55,000 square feet of land from the original appraisal.

A subsequent survey accurately described the land, minus the 55,000 square feet retained by the county.

The commissioners, however, never ordered an official amended appraisal, which would have set the value of the county land at $129,877.

Auctioneer Ralph Kiner correctly described the property on July 10, Petersen said, but at the sale he also distributed the original appraisal, which was supplied by the county and placed the property's value at $188,590.

"Obviously, if my client had known the property was worth $130,000, he would not have bid to $180,000," Petersen said.

Deputy State's Attorney Jim Taylor said it's the job of the buyer to exercise due diligence prior to any auction.

The county commissioners have no obligation to rescind the auction or to return Bathke's deposit, Taylor said, but they would be within their rights to do so if they wished.

"The process was very confusing," confirmed local real estate investor Boyd Reimnitz in a Tuesday phone interview after the meeting. Reimnitz lost out to Bathke in the July 10 auction.

Before the auction, he said, "I had gone to the auditor to try and get a sale bill and there was no sale bill. I had gone to the assessor's office to try to find out how many feet they were selling. It was very confusing.

"I think a do-over is the proper way to handle this situation and if that's what the county commissioners have decided to do, I believe it's the correct path."

Reimnitz said he will be among the bidders at the next auction.

The commissioners have ordered an official amended appraisal of the property and will set a new auction date at an upcoming meeting.

Machinery proposal

Commissioners heard from Butler Machinery representative Matt Tobin, who made a sales pitch for a lease-purchase plan that would cost the county about $16,500 a year for a new a CAT front-end loader.

Highway Superintendent Rusty Weinberg said the county's two loaders are costing the county about the same amount for maintenance and parts are becoming increasingly difficult to find. In a deal similar to the four road-graders the county recently purchased through Butler, the company offered a guaranteed buy-back price of $160,000 at the end of the five-year lease purchase plan.

Lifequest funding

LifeQuest Executive Director Daryl Kilstrom asked the commissioners to dig deeper when they consider funds for his organization this year.

The county designated $6,000 in 2012 and Kilstrom requested $10,000 for 2013. He said in recent years the rates of reimbursement from state government have fallen.

LifeQuest serves developmentally disabled people from throughout the area, including many in Davison County.

Commissioner Reider, noting that Kilstrom will retire next March after 35 years as LifeQuest's executive director, stood up and shook his hand. "Thank you for what you've done for our community," Reider said.

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