Wahkiakum County commissioners learned Tuesday that proceeds from a Puget Island farm seized from a marijuana grower are carefully governed.
The county acquired the six acre property on East Birnie Slough Road last fall after its owner became the focus of investigations in Clark County, where he was convicted of growing marijuana. Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant on the property and found that buildings had been used to grow marijuana.
Commissioners had heard several proposals for use of the property, including as a site for either senior citizen or low income family housing.
However, Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bigelow said Tuesday, state law guides the distribution of proceeds from the sale of seized property. Within 12 months, he said, the county has to send a payment of 10 percent of the sale price to the state Department of Revenue. The rest of the proceeds have to go to the sheriff's department for fighting drug crime. It can be used for purchase of equipment, officer's salaries, membership in the Cowlitz/Wahkiakum Narcotics Task Force, and so on.
The news of the restrictions was a surprise for the commissioners.
"I didn't know that; how did I miss that," said Commissioner Blair Brady. "This is the first time I've heard that."
If the county wanted to use the property for a use not related to drug enforcement, it would have to compensate the sheriff's department the value of the property, which is now assessed at $248,000, Bigelow said.
In response to a question from Commissioner Lisa Marsyla, Bigelow said the proceeds could go into a reserve fund dedicated to drug enforcement.
Sheriff Jon Dearmore said he likes the idea of a reserve. He said the money could go to a variety of programs.
Officials agreed it would be more cost effective for the county to sell the property than to have to maintain it while a use was sought.
"To me, sell it," said commission Chair Dan Cothren. "We have too much property right now to maintain."
The board voted to move forward with a sale of the property. They'll explore ways of selling it--from listing it with a real estate agent to holding an auction or to listing it on a state surplus property list.