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July 20, 2024

Land Rush in Vermilion County! Sign Up for Free Land Give-A-Way!!!

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On May 27, 2014

This is no joke. The Vermilion County Board is giving away free land west of Tilton, Illinois. Here’s the May 21, 2014 Commercial News Article which was mis-titled “Buyers found for farmland” and should have said, “Takers find free land“.
HERE:  Buyers found for county farmland
In the above linked article, Vermilion County Board Chairman stated that “an additional three to four acres of land adjacent to the northside tract may be given to that buyer“. That let me wondering which statute gives the County the authority to give away public real estate – I think they will be hard-pressed to find any such statute.
The Vermilion County Board property committee declared that real estate as surplus property, but it still must have a county board approval to dispose of this particular piece of real estate.
Mr. Weinard claims the property is overgrown with brush and has junk and old buildings on it, and that the buyer would be responsible for any clean up..
A citizen, Ted Hartke, one of the two Vermilion County Surveyors, said:  “Free land in Vermilion County? I have never heard of such a thing unless it has coal ash pits or some other environmental hazard. I would like to be given that piece of land! Where do we sign up for the free land give-a-way here in Vermilion County? I don’t think anyone deserves this land unless their house has been ruined by wind turbines and they can’t sleep there anymore because of the low frequency noise they make. Living next to wind turbines is horrible, and I would rather take my chances living next to the sanitary sewer treatment plant which might be on this property.”
We believe it is illegal to give away county property for free. Surely it is worth something more than ZERO at a public auction.
To submit your interest in this free land, attend the Vermilion County Board Meeting, 6 PM June 10th. You will have 5 minutes to request ownership of this free land.
Please contact Bill Donahue, Assistant State’s Attorney, to find out the exact location of the property. Be sure to ask him if this parcel includes the sanitary sewer treatment plant. Also tell him you are concerned about getting into trouble and make sure it is perfectly legal to be given this free land owned by the citizens of Vermilion County.


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  • Ron Smoot
    Posted at 23:11h, 10 June Reply

    Please, enough is enough. I think I remember the motion to sell the County Farm. It included the excess property around the animal control center. I also believe it passed. The farm was bought by the people next to it. Their parents, grandparents and great grandparents have lived and farmed next to it. When the auction was over it did not include all of the property that was voted on. The new Owners wanted the property or an exclusive right of way on the drainage area. No one could build on this or impede the flow of drainage on it, it is against the law. They do not want the sewer plant, never did, and it appears the County never proposed to sell or give it away. This farm was donated to the County by the Paynes. It was run as a county ‘poor farm”. It also had a TB sanitarium on it, with a nursing home facility.
    I grew up next to this farm and it has a lot of meaning to me. Not too many people protested the sale of a facility that was meant to take care of our poor, needy and elderly. Now you’re groaning about a few acres that is covered in brush with a ravine in the middle of it. These young men bid the highest bid at a public auction, of which an auction usually tell the true value. They upped the amount and paid premium money for this ground. Yet it seems the amount of acreage was not the amount in the first passed motion of the County Board.
    Get real.

    • jmkraft
      Posted at 06:55h, 11 June Reply

      The motion, as verified by Chairman Weinard last night was to sell the “tillable acreage”, not the non-tillable acreage. The same people that protested the sale of the nursing home are protesting the “gift” of this property. This property in question was not included in the description of the property up for auction. The county board does not have authority to give away public property. Period. There will be another article explaining these details soon.
      There was a minimum bid price set by the county. The auction did not equal or surpass that minimum price.
      This is not meant to put any bad light on the purchasers of the tillable land, simply that the county board overstepped their authority with this extra gift.

  • Theodore P. Hartke, PE, PLS, President, Hartke Engineering and Surveying, Inc.
    Posted at 00:35h, 30 June Reply

    Dear Mr. Smoot,
    Thank you for commenting about the article about the “free land giveaway” which has become a concern of mine.
    Did you read what I wrote on the ECWd’s previous article located here? I am pleased to see local people (farmer and businessman) purchase the farm ground from the county. That means that the future profits from this land will probably still remain in the local economy. I think the county board set the “premium price” minimum bid amount on this land in order to protect them from angry folks who might accuse them of somehow letting this land go for too little money. I think that many of the county board members supported and gave their blessing to sell this land as long as they protected themselves a little bit by establishing a certain minimum per-acre bid price. I think the minimum bid price setting may have been the important trade-off needed to win the votes and satisfy most taxpayers.
    You are right that it the original vote to sell the farmland was to include “all of the county farm” which should have included this piece as part of the original vote. That is also how I understood the original announcement and acreage amount given. A.J. Wright also seemed to interpreted it the same as I did.
    I think that the county was trying to get the highest per-acre bid at the auction. I think Gary Weinard and Bill Donahue did not value this 3.75 acre piece as being worth very much. I think they were overly concerned by the small amount of misc. debris (some household garbage, 1 tire, a pile of old carpet, etc.) which was dumped next to the old building. In my opinion, this property should have been made available to everyone. If this land has a high value to a person, that individual would be able to bid on it at auction. It was a disservice to all taxpayers to have no appraisal, no advertisement, and no opportunity to get the highest dollar amount for this attractive real estate.
    My original concern with “selling all of the county farm” was that some unsuspecting purchaser would possibly find themselves stuck with the huge liability of the sanitary sewer plant if it was true that “all of the farm” was to be sold. If the sewer plant was included, I think it would definitely carry a negative value. Once it became clear to us that the sale was only the tillable acreage, I became much less concerned. The county was still going to own the sewer plant, the animal shelter, and the fringe areas surrounding those. In my opinion, everything was legally acceptable since they were following the correct protocol with the advertising/bidding/auctioning method to dispose this land. If a public auction was held, we were looking to get fair market value. The other option to create cash for other projects was to do some sort of bonding transaction……whereas a government entity can loan money with the ability to pay it back by using the the $70,000 annual income from the crop production. This was suggested by an elderly gentlemen during one of the regular board meeting public comments period. I would have been in support of that option as well. One difference I would have like to have seen was for the Sheriff to conduct the auction. If a Sheriff can do the auction and issue a “sheriff’s deed” for parcels which are sold for delinquent taxes, then surely the sheriff could conduct this sale without us paying for some of the fees and “commission” costs to a Realtor/auctioneer.
    I think the drainage issue/easement discussion/concern is just a distraction. Drainage laws are in place which allow for conveyance of storm water runoff across property. “Drainage ditches, tiles, feeders, laterals, etc” wording is commonly listed as one of the standard exceptions in title insurance policies for real estate transactions. I have seen this type of language hundreds of times while looking through title commitments for easements and other encumbrances on properties I am surveying. Whoever buys this uphill farm ground will always have rights for natural drainage to leave their property. If the downstream landowner(s) desired to change the location/direction of the runoff, they must allow for an alternative outlet or means to convey the pre-existing drainage situation. The drainage thing is a non-issue…….very far from being a deal breaker.
    I have been to this property and physically inspected the area which is called a “ravine.” There is a wooded/brushy “swale” which any regular car could drive along/through/across for most of the entire length if the trees/brush were cut/trimmed. The low area crossing this property is very wide and very gradual. When I think of a “ravine,” I think of steep slopes which cannot be crossed with a vehicle.
    In the past, Vermilion County has tried to convince the Village of Tilton to assume ownership/control of the sanitary sewer plant. This sewer plant will require very expensive upgrades to continue operating for much longer. The nursing home has been disconnected from the county sewer plant and is now connected with a “temporary” connection to the Village of Tilton system. Gary Weinard said that the plant still receives sewage from the animal shelter, VOTEC complex, and 2 houses. I described the nursing home sewer connection as being “temporary” because it was not built per the Illinois EPA standards. I don’t know why the county has not already fixed this issue.
    I think the sale of the nursing home was a smart move for Vermilion County taxpayers. After seeing how the current Vermilion County Board operates, I feel that they are absolutely incapable of operating any health care facility in a fiscally responsible manner. Staying in the nursing home business was leading our county into a potential financial disaster. One thing that many people grumbled about was that the crop production income from the county-owned farm ground was not being spent on the nursing home facility or to take care of the county’s poor people. I think that was the intent of the Payne family when it was deeded to the public. The proceeds from the county farmland sale does not appear as though it will be spent for the benefit of the poorest citizens of this county, either. I suspect it will be used to build a building for the county health department or for remodeling of other existing county buildings.
    I hope that these details help more people understand the background of the developing situation surrounding the nursing home, county farmland, and “free land giveaway.”
    Ted Hartke

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