Mohave Wash project proceeds, but some property owners are holding out for better deal<BR>

The Mohave County Flood Control District is proceeding with plans to finish a project in the Mohave Wash northeast of Kingman.

The county completed a half-mile stretch from Thompson to Northern avenues a few years ago, and needs to finish a mile-long stretch of channel from Northern Avenue to Gordon Drive, Public Works Director Dick Skalicky said.

"Being optimistic, we could begin construction possibly next summer," Skalicky said.

The $6 million project, which entails designing a new channel and installing box culverts in the wash, will take nine months to a year to complete.

However, the county faces a continuing roadblock.

While the flood control district bought 27 properties along the project's path for about $1.4 million, four of the owners of the remaining 14 properties are holding out, according to Skalicky.

If flood control staffers cannot negotiate agreements with the property owners, they will use the power of eminent domain to condemn the land, he said.

"What we have been trying to do is work with the people," Skalicky said.

One of the holdouts, Peggy Finnegan-Curtis, and her husband, Vernon Curtis, said they think they deserve more than the $58,000 that the county has offered to pay for their home on Pinal Avenue.

Married for eight years, the disabled couple share the three-bedroom home with Curtis' two teen-age children from a previous marriage and a 3-month-old granddaughter.

The Curtises said they support the Mohave Wash project, citing damage to their property from an August 1998 storm.

Finnegan-Curtis said her husband bought the brick house 11 years ago for $45,000 with a loan through the federal Farm Home Administration.

However, an appraisal conducted on Aug.

2, 1999, said the property is worth only $42,627.

They pay taxes on their home based on an assessed value of $52,369, according to a notice of value card from the county Assessor's Office.

They paid for an appraisal conducted on June 4, 1999, that valued the property at $70,000.

The county paid for a review of both previous appraisals, conducted on Sept.

14, 1999, that valued the property at $58,000.

The Curtises said they consider the initial appraisal and the review too low, and noted that their former next-door neighbors sold their home Jan.

24, 2000, for $73,500, according to the 19-page document for the sale.

The former neighbor, Michael Perrine, said he and his family moved into a home on Martingale Drive in Kingman after selling their house.

"I know nothing about why there is that big of a difference in the appraisals," said Perrine, a lab technician.

"We had our house appraised.

It was fair-market value, and the county worked with us."

Finnegan-Curtis said she would settle for $70,000.

"We are not holding out because we don't want to sell," Finnegan-Curtis said.

"We are holding out because we were treated unfairly."

Skalicky, whose background is in engineering, responded, "We stay out of the valuation of homes.

That is why we hire professionals."

Deputy County Attorney Richard Basinger, who advises public works and the divisions under its wing, defended the appraisals and the procedures that the flood control district has followed.

"The appraisal is done by a state-certified appraiser," Basinger said.

"They have state-mandated guidelines."

While not recalling the specifics of the appraisals for the Curtises and their former neighbors, Basinger said the neighbor's property may have been valued higher because of work done inside the home.

"If the neighbor has spent money to do those things, that neighbor would get an appreciated appraised value because they are being reimbursed for their costs," Basinger said.

Basinger and Skalicky said the Curtises and other property owners are entitled to a fourth appraisal, in which the county and the property owners would share the costs and be bound by the appraisal.

"They would get at least the amount of the review appraisal," Basinger said.

He said if a property owner shared information that could lead to a higher appraisal, the owner may submit that information in writing.

"We will submit that to the appraiser involved and ask them to review that," Basinger continued.

"This district has gone to extreme measures to be fair to those selling their properties."

Curtis appeared amenable to a fourth appraisal.

"I'll do whatever I have to do to get at least close to what we feel the property is worth," he said.

"I am agreeable up to a certain point."

However, he and his wife said they will continue their battle, even though they cannot afford an attorney.

"The solution is we will defend ourselves in court," he said.

"To us poor people, $10,000 is a lot of money."

Efforts to reach the other holdouts were unsuccessful.

Mohave Wash project financed from flood control taxes

By Ken Hedler

Miner Staff Writer

Mohave County government is financing the Mohave Wash flood control project through a countywide flood control tax of 50 cents per $100 in assessed valuation, Public Works Director Dick Skalicky said.

However, he said the county supervisors may opt to float a bond measure because flood control taxes may turn out to be inadequate.

He estimated construction costs alone at $6 million for the project.

The county already has paid about $1.4 million to buy 27 properties that lie along the proposed route of the new channel, Skalicky said.

The flood control district needs to obtain an additional 14 properties.

"We are getting the properties that the district has purchased," he said.

"We will be auctioning the buildings, the homes, the outbuildings like garages, and landscaping.

Some people showed interest in the landscaping, like rocks and fences.

We hope to do it (the auction) at the end of September."

The flood control district has offered to buy the properties based on fair market value as determined by appraisals.

The district also has tacked on 5 percent to the sale price to cover moving and related costs, Skalicky said.

"We don't ask the homeowner to absorb other costs," he said.

Property owners who sell their homes for the flood control project do not pay closing costs or title fees, said Richard Basinger, a deputy county attorney assigned to public works and the divisions under its wing.

A call placed by Basinger to a title company on Thursday determined that the title policy would cost $555 and the escrow fee would come to $230 for a home selling for $73,500.

However, Vernon Curtis, a property owner who is holding out for a better deal than the $58,000 that the county has offered for his Pinal Avenue residence, questioned whether the 5 percent fee to cover moving-related costs would be sufficient.

Curtis said he and his wife, Peggy Finnegan-Curtis, would have to pay for a professional mover because they are both disabled, and cited other costs such as transferring utility service to a new home.

"We are not willing to give up our legal rights," he said.

"We want every penny for moving expenses.

For some people, 5 percent is not enough because we have to pay somebody to move.

"They (the flood control district) are trying to get off cheaply," he said.

"I have to move and I realize I have to move, but I am not going to be cheated."