142 Bentley lots to be auctioned

The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office will set a record on Monday when it auctions 142 lots in the Castle Estates subdivision in Bentley.

It's a dubious record, said Bentley Mayor Shelly Armstrong, who said the subdivision's failure has devastated her city's budget.

The sale begins at 1:30 p.m. Monday at the Sedgwick County 4-H Extension Education Center at 21st Street and Ridge Road. Registration begins at 12:30 p.m.

Castle Estates is one of several Kansas housing projects developed by Wichita builder Tim Malone, who has sustained millions of dollars in foreclosures over the past two years.

Malone also had a project in Junction City that was hit hard when projections that Fort Riley's population would jump failed to materialize as quickly as hoped.

"I don't know if that's a good thing or not," Armstrong said, chuckling about the sheriff's department record.

"But what I hope is that when people come out and look at these lots with the intention of buying them, they realize that they need to pay taxes on the specials every year. Otherwise, we're just prolonging the problem."

The problem is $1.4 million borrowed by the city to extend water and sewer lines to Castle Estates, with only about $100,000 retired, Armstrong said.

Already, Bentley has incurred about $240,000 in expenses from the stalled development, which has eaten up $120,000 in the city's cash reserves and caused the police department's $50,000 budget to be cut in half.

"We almost lost our police department," Armstrong said.

And even with the July 12 sale, it's unclear what — if anything — Bentley will realize if the lots sell.

"On a tax sale, everything sells," said Rachel Hummel, administrative assistant to Sedgwick County Sheriff Robert Hinshaw.

"It's a public auction selling the property to the highest bidder for whatever we can get. I've had properties sell for 50 cents over the six or seven years I've been doing this. There really are no rules. We just try to raise whatever tax money we can."

Armstrong said the county gets "first dibs" at the proceeds from the sale.

"And if there's anything left over, we get some," she said. "We're already at a loss. We sustained our losses by not having the money in for the specials."

Nonetheless, the mayor says her community of 500 is relatively undaunted by the budget-busting failure of Malone's project.

"It doesn't really change our philosophy," Armstrong said. "We want to grow. But it has to be a sustainable growth.

"I think we'd be a little more cautious the next time a developer approached us with this kind of request."