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Wednesday, June 17,2009

Arrears

The rental building that’s the headquarters for Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s reelection campaign is behind on its taxes, but the property owner says she will pay.

by Neal McNamara
The house at 1905 East Michigan Ave. that has been chosen as the headquarters of Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s reelection campaign is in a great location and is tidy, with a manicured lawn and fresh campaign signs out front.

It’s also delinquent on its 2008 taxes by $4,251.24.


Randy Hannan, the mayor’s spokesman, speaking on behalf of the campaign, said that no one involved in the campaign knew that the property it is renting was behind on its taxes. The property owner, Barbara Hollstein, also said she was unaware of the back taxes until she spoke with a reporter, but pledged to pay the bill in full on Wednesday.

“This has nothing to do with the tenant, it’s my responsibility,” Hollstein said. “It’s absolutely not a reflection on the tenant. The taxes will be paid (Wednesday).”


According to records from the Lansing tax assessor, the house is owned by Katherine Wulfhorst of Los Gatos, Calif., Stephen Sargeant, Rosemary Faiver and Roberta Modica.

But Wulfhorst said that the house, formerly her father’s place of work, is being sold on a land contract. Wulfhorst didn’t even know that the house had been rented to the Bernero campaign.

Hollstein wouldn’t confirm she is buying the house on a land contract, saying that she didn’t want to talk about her personal finances. A check with the Ingham County Register of Deeds, which keeps records of land contracts in the county, did not show a land contract for the property.

Wulfhorst said that she had received a delinquent tax notice recently, which she forwarded to Stephen Lett, her Okemosbased attorney. Lett cited attorney-client privilege when asked whether he had forwarded the delinquent notice to Hollstein.

Hollstein was late on paying the 2007 taxes on the property, which, according to records, she didn’t pay until June 24 of last year. In that instance, she would only say, “Vacant property is a problem for anyone.”

According to Ingham County records, she and her husband, Werner, are delinquent on taxes on three other properties in different parts of the county. Records show that they owe $3,120.23 for a property at 675 N. Aurelius Road in Holt, $2,530.40 for a property at 6268 Ridge St. in Haslett and $5,997.59 on a property at 263 Hagadorn Road in East Lansing.

The grand total of taxes owed, including on a parcel of land near Lake Lansing, is $16,474.20.


When asked his opinion on the campaign renting from a property owner who owes taxes on several properties, Hannan said that it was Hollstein’s personal business. Hannan said the property is being rented by the month.

“Her personal finances and personal business matters are her business and not ours. We’re just renting a property,” he said.


Hannan said that in a poor economy, it’s not surprising for property owners to be behind on taxes.

“We’re glad that this is being taken care of. We’re glad that we can occupy a vacant property on Michigan Avenue and keep it on the tax rolls,” he said.


Hollstein, too, said that the mayor’s campaign was doing the city good by supporting her property.

“Taxes are being generated by him renting that property,” she said.



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