Signs claiming to be official notice of the upcoming county property seizure were found taped up around the Mt. Hood Railroad parking lot Tuesday morning. The problem: Hood River County didn’t put up the signs, and it’s unclear who did.
The signs, printed on standard copy paper and secured to existing signs in the railroad parking lot with electrical tape, stated that the property was under seizure from Hood River County and advised employees to remove all personal belongings from the site, as no access would be permitted once the seizure commenced. A post-note at the bottom stated, “It is unlawful to remove this notice.”
Mt. Hood Railroad is currently delinquent on its tax accounts for the last three years and currently owes Hood River County $210,135 in property taxes, interest and fees (article, Hood River News, Aug. 17, and at hoodrivernews.com). Full payment of the owed amount would prevent the seizure, according to County Finance Director Tina Ruffin. Ed Ellis, the president of the company that owns the railroad — Iowa Pacific Holdings — said that they are currently working to satisfy the county’s claim and prevent the seizure.
“The signs put up on the railroad were not from the county,” said County Administrator Jeff Hecksel. “The county is doing its due diligence on the process and has not initiated a seizure process.”
If official notice is posted, Hood River County would take possession of the property and business operations would be ordered to cease. After that, the property would be put up for sale.
Some local businesses and organizations have already expressed interest in acquiring the railroad property should it go to auction, according to Port Commissioner Kristi Chapman, who, at a recent commission meeting, encouraged her fellow commissioners to keep the situation on their radar.
Railroad General Manager Ron Kaufmann called the fake signs an act of “vandalism,” adding, “they (Iowa Pacific Holdings) are going to pay all of their taxes and the railroad will never be seized.”
The signs were all taken down by Tuesday afternoon and, according to Wildwood Academy Co-Founder Carrington Barrs, found crumpled up in Wildwood’s mailbox.
Barrs reported first seeing the signs posted around the railroad property early Tuesday morning; all but two had been removed by about 11 a.m. and, by mid-afternoon, they had all been taken down.
While Barrs said that he was “not disappointed” to see the signs posted, he said that Wildwood was not responsible for putting them up.
The railroad is currently involved in a civil dispute with Wildwood Academy over use of the railroad’s parking lot, and Wildwood has filed a lawsuit against the railroad for violation of an easement agreement between the two businesses.
The lawsuit was put on pause several weeks ago so that Mt. Hood Railroad and Wildwood Academy could attempt to negotiate a parking deal, but negotiations have so far been unsuccessful.