Legislator fights for constituent and his home

OBSERVER Photo by Mary Heyl County Legislator Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, is advocating for a local man in danger of losing his home on Route 20 in Sheridan.

SHERIDAN — While an individual losing his or her home at the county foreclosure auction may seem like a standard procedure after years of unpaid taxes, County Legislator Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, argues that the situation is not so simple for David Blodgett. Niebel is so determined to fight for Blodgett that he is going to be taking it up with the county legislators at their meeting on Wednesday night.

According to family and friends of the Sheridan homeowner, the 56-year-old man suffers from severe depression and is also caring for his teenage son, Jackson, who has been diagnosed with epilepsy and Asperger’s syndrome. Both are facing homelessness if the county passes the resolution for the quit claim deed.

Niebel explained, “It is my understanding the individual lost a job he had worked at for 15 years in Buffalo because of mental health issues. Currently, he is being treated at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center in Dunkirk. He has lived in his home for a number of years and regularly paid his taxes. … Three years ago, he began falling behind on his taxes, resulting in his home being sold at the county foreclosure auction, held on June 16, 2018. Based on tax records, the full valuation of the home is $122,500. The amount of taxes owed was $16,205.35. The county accepted an offer of $15,000 at auction and will now issue a quit claim to the new owner.”

Today, Blodgett has a job that often begins at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. As he does not have a vehicle, he rides his bike approximately 10 miles to and from work. “He is trying to put his life back together,” Niebel stated.

Niebel emphasized that both the buyer and the county tax department followed all necessary procedures involving legal notices and contacting the property owner. Niebel said, “Neither the tax department, nor the buyer can be faulted. However, there are times when we must question procedure and look at the situation and the difficulties that some individuals are facing in their lives and make exceptions. I believe that this instance is one of those cases.”

Niebel explained that Blodgett did reach out to him as his county legislator and someone who has known him all his life. “He also reached out to a relative who agreed to give him the money to pay the back taxes. Unfortunately, these things occurred after the tax sale.”

Niebel pointed out that this situation is a prime example of the need for mental health discussions and the precarious position many people are in because of them. “…the loss of his home and property would be devastating to this individual.

It would also create a situation where he and his son would be homeless and most probably would need to seek assistance through Social Services, thus adding additional services paid for by the taxpayers,” Niebel explained.

Niebel hopes that his fellow legislators will consider the ramifications of moving forward with the resolution. “It seems overly punitive for the county to sell a property valued at over $100,000 for $15,000 when the owner has been able to come up with the funds. Perhaps we need to review the process to be able to reach out to people in these situations to assure that we are not taking advantage of someone who has mental or physical disabilities that have interfered with their ability to follow the process,” he said.

Both Blodgett and his son will be present at the meeting on Wednesday night when Niebel will make a motion to have Blodgett’s property exempted from the resolution involving the quit claim deeds.