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Sebeka Legion asks Wadena County for help

If the Sebeka Legion can't raise $22,000 in approximately 2 months, Wadena County will have to seize their building because of $85,000 in unpaid taxes.

Deb Besett, manager, and Walt Schultz, former Legion commander, appeared before commissioners at the July 26 meeting to plead with the board to reduce the amount of taxes due. But commissioners could not help.

Auditor-Treasurer Char West told commissioners, "Our hands are tied. We have to follow state statute."

Board Chair Ralph Miller asked, "Is there anything we can do?"

West replied, "Sadly, no."

Certified letters notifying the Sebeka Legion of their status will be mailed this week. The Sheriff's Department will serve an official notice of forfeiture during the week of Aug. 13-17. According to the law, after the date that the Sheriff posts the notice, the Legion has 60 days to redeem the property. This requires that they pay the county $22,000 and enter into a "confession of judgment" - a portion of what they owe in back taxes - that will allow the county to give them a 10-year payment plan so they can pay off the tax bill and keep their building.

Besett and Schultz said a combination of thefts by previous employees and mismanagement by post commanders led to the problem.

Additionally, Besett has been working for two years to try to fix the problems. She told commissioners, "The state and the IRS took our gambling money, seized our bank account - all of it. (Throughout the last two years) I've paid our gambling fees and made an arrangement with the IRS to start making a monthly payment on federal taxes. I've paid a lot of the old bills, cut the payroll, and volunteer my time. I'm here to find out if there's any relief that the board can give us."

The Sebeka Legion is an important community asset, commissioners agreed. The Legion provides free meeting space to many local organizations and is the evacuation site for the schools in the event of an emergency.

Besett said she has been in constant contact with the Legion's bank, First National Bank of Menahga and Sebeka, but the bank says it can't lend any more money to the Legion.  

"We don't want your building. We want you in there. But there's nothing we can do.  We can't reduce the taxes you owe.  We're not allowed to do that," Char West said.