HILDALE – Threats may soon turn to actions against hundreds of residents living in the twin cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona.
Friday, during a Salt Lake City hearing to discuss the formation of a board to oversee redistribution of properties in the border towns, 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg called for polygamous residents who have not been paying their occupancy fees to be evicted.
Since 2005, 750 homes in Hildale and Colorado City have been under the control of the State of Utah. The homes were seized due to alleged mismanagement by Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints leaders, including Warren Jeffs, who is currently serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for child sexual assault.
Those living in the seized homes were mandated to pay $100 per month in occupancy fees, along with all the appropriate property taxes. Payment plans have been offered to those with legitimate financial hardships. But for as long as seven years, the majority of residents have not paid their occupancy fees.
More than $4 million dollars in unpaid occupancy fees is currently owed to the United Effort Plan Trust, or UEP, which was reformed by the 3rd District Court to administer housing solutions and other benefits for FLDS members. According to a yearly report published in 2013 by the Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City accountant Bruce Wisan, who has been overseeing the trust, billed $910,289 in occupancy fees in 2012, and only $80,399 was paid by Hildale and Colorado City residents that year.
During Friday’s hearing, Lindberg said empty eviction threats have been made for too long against nonpayers, and action needs to be taken. She recommended sending a message to the community by serving eviction notices on a few homes to start with, notifying the families that they must pay their residency fees or leave.
No time frame was set for sending eviction notices to the residents.
The purpose of Friday’s hearing was not evictions but the subject of a management board that is in the works. Chosen members of the board will be given authority to oversee the 750 trust homes. Twelve original candidates for the board have been whittled down to seven selectees, but Lindberg said she will not announce the names of the chosen board members or actually create the board until occupancy fees are being paid and the UEP Trust has a stable source of revenue.
The state’s expressed intention has always been to give the seized homes and assorted properties back to the community members. Creating the board is a step toward fulfilling that goal.
Though FLDS members were invited to apply for membership on the new board, none of the finalists are members of Jeffs’ group. Jeffs has reportedly instructed FLDS Church members not to take part in the board.
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