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Injunction aims to stop health district land transfer

Former health district property was sold to trustees, deed shows


An undeveloped property in St. Helens is already set to be transferred to the city of St. Helens from the Columbia County Health District, but a deed shows the property remains in two private citizens’ names.

Brady Preheim of St. Helens filed an injunction in Columbia County Circuit Court Wednesday, Oct. 28, to halt the transfer of an 8.23-acre piece of land on Millard Road to the city of St. Helens.

A warranty deed from January 2012 shows the property was sold to Preheim and Joe Cason for $1 back in 2012, amid attempts to dissolve the health district and its assets.

PREHEIM

The district was formed, and taxes were collected, with the intent to build a hospital in the county, but those efforts never materialized due to legal changes, state regulatory actions and revised cost estimates.

Preheim said he was named as a trustee of the district and the property was transferred to he and Cason. The transfer was an attempt to prevent the property from being given to the city, as is happening now.

“It was in the name of the Columbia Health District and had been for a while, since the day it was purchased,” Preheim explained. “It was transfered to my name as co-trustee, to prevent exactly what the county is trying to do.”

The three Columbia County commissioners, who now act as legal trustees for the CHD board, took steps to transfer the property to the city of St. Helens in accordance with a state statute that dictates how the property should be discharged following dissolution of the special district.

Preheim maintains that process isn’t fair to the rest of the district’s members, whose tax money was used to buy the property.

Preheim said he’s offered to have mediation talks with both the county and St. Helens, but both have declined.

Whether Preheim’s deed will affect the transfer of the property is unclear.

John Walsh, city administator for St. Helens, said he was unaware of the injunction filed last week.

“We’re proceeding as if we own it,” Walsh said of the Millard Road property. “That’s what the court’s decided. We have the court order that says it’s ours.”

Earlier this year, the county commissioners, acting as CHD trustees, announced a plan to issue property tax credits with the remaining funds in the district’s coffers. County officials have said they’re not sure how much money is left to disburse, but estimate it could be around $100,000.

Preheim said if the court determines he does have the legal rights to the property, he intends to sell it for market value and give the proceeds back to the CHD, for distribution back to the district’s members as tax credits.

A court hearing is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9 in Columbia County Circuit Court.

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