Two river islands set for free-and-clear sale

March 19, 2012

By Jennifer Learn-Andes This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

attorney-john-rodgersLuzerne County tax claim operator John Rodgers had no idea people could own Susquehanna River islands until two of them cropped up on the back-tax auction list last fall.

Constables must post properties slated for tax sale, and Rodgers’ company, Northeast Revenue Service LLC, was informed a boat would be necessary to complete the job because islands were involved.

The islands didn’t sell in a November upset tax sale and are scheduled to be listed in an August free-and-clear sale.

Properties are less likely to sell at upset sales because buyers must pay all back taxes and accept liens attached to the properties. Liens and back taxes are forgiven at free-and-clear sales, where bids typically start at several hundred dollars.

Rodgers said he soon will brief county officials on the islands because the county gets stuck with properties that are listed in free-and-clear auctions and don’t sell. Unsold properties go into a repository and remain there in limbo unless someone wants to buy them.

“We’d better be careful because if nobody buys them, the county in essence owns them,” Rodgers said.

The islands are in Conyngham and Exeter townships.

The Conyngham Township one is known as “Mack’s Island” and is listed at 23.5 acres on county assessment records. It’s a cluster of a large, medium and several tiny islands.

John Krostek is listed as the owner, but property records are addressed to a New Jersey relative, Richard Krostek, who inherited the property and could not be reached for comment.

Mack’s Island is assessed at $48,000, which equates to a school, county and local property tax bill of about $774.

A total $3,251 in back taxes are owed on the island dating back to 2009, records show. There is no record of an assessment appeal on the property since the countywide reassessment. Assessment records say the property is waterfront and has a “superior view.” The island is eligible for a reduced Clean and Green assessment tax break because it’s larger than 10 acres and can’t be developed.

The Exeter Township property, known as “Miller’s Island,” is a group of five islands totaling three acres, assessment records show.

Owned by Michael Degirolamo, the island is assessed at $45,100, which produces a tax bill of $873.

An out-of-town relative who did not want to be identified said the owners have died, and a Realtor concluded nobody would buy the island. The taxes increased dramatically after reassessment, prompting the family to stop paying them and let it go to tax sale. No assessment appeals are recorded on the property. Assessment records say this island is waterfront but has no superior view.

If the county opts to keep the islands in the sale, they will be listed in a public auction list this summer.

Luzerne County tax claim operator John Rodgers said he soon will brief county officials on the islands because the county gets stuck with properties that are listed in free-and-clear auctions and don’t sell. Unsold properties go into a repository and remain there in limbo unless someone wants to buy them.