Pittsfield to recoup unpaid taxes during tax title auction next month

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PITTSFIELD — The city will hold a tax title auction next month as a means to earn back some of its $11.7 million in uncollected taxes.

There are tax titles to some 427 properties on the block, according to a listing page on the auctioneer's website.

Notable liens in the listing include one against the Berkshire Common property on South Street, a lien against the Polish Community Club property on Linden Street and one connected to a seven-acre brownfield site on Wahconah Street.

The auction, to be conducted by Strategic Auction Alliance, is scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. Oct. 11 at City Hall.

During the previous tax title auction in 2015, conducted by the same company, the city raised $2.5 million after listing about 329 properties. As councilors worked to tighten the city's belt during budget season last spring, some pressed Mayor Linda Tyer's administration to recoup lost revenues by holding another auction.

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Buyers will earn the right to collect unpaid taxes at a 16 percent interest rate, a press release states, and city Finance Director Matt Kerwood said tax title buyers are more aggressive collectors than municipalities. These companies could also choose to foreclose more quickly, he said.

The auction will include tax title assignments for residential homes, commercial property and vacant land. Interested buyers can bid in person at City Hall, online or by absentee bid. The range of properties with debt for auction varies widely, from long-vacant plots to blighted ones, to occupied homes with debts small and large, and slivers of land with markedly more debt than their assessed value. One property on Daytona Avenue valued at $2,600, for example, has accrued about $85,000 in unpaid taxes and interest.

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The debt connected to Berkshire Common, a large commercial property at 2 South St. assessed at $1.85 million, is on the auction block for a minimum bid of $89,336. The Polish Community Club owes the city $62,900 for a tax title on property at 55 Linden St.

The largest debt for sale, amounting to more than $580,000, stems from the 7-acre brownfield site at 370 Wahconah St. A legal notice shows J Barrett Hollister owns the lot, which has been vacant since 1986 and in tax title since 1993.

The second largest is a $325,300 tax title connected to a commercial property on 50 East Mill St., according to the notice, and Ernest C. Baldasarre is the owner of record.

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Property owners behind on their taxes can avoid seeing their tax title auctioned to a third-party collector by entering into a payment plan with City Hall. Kerwood told The Eagle he'd provide more information about the auction in the days prior.

He said payment plans are an important part of the auction process.

"Our office works as much as we can to work with individuals in this situation," Kerwood told The Eagle during an earlier interview, in June. "We work very hard to get people into payment plans."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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