Within the next few weeks, eviction notices could be fastened to doors in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
Third District Judge Denise Lindberg gave verbal approval Friday to a plan to evict residents of the two towns who have not paid a housing fee to a polygamous trust.
"If people step up and start meeting their obligations, we work with them," Lindberg said during a hearing Friday in Salt Lake City. "If not, then we proceed. We proceed with the evictions."
The trust, called the United Effort Plan, owns most of the property in Hildale and Colorado City. The state took over the trust in 2005, concerned it was being mismanaged by leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and required residents living in its 750 homes to pay $100 a month plus the annual property taxes.
But as many as 80 percent of the residents have refused, leaving the trust without a steady source of income and contributing to about $6 million in debts it has incurred.
The United Effort Plan’s court-appointed fiduciary, Bruce Wisan, plans to begin eviction proceedings on delinquent debtors. According to a plan Wisan submitted to Lindberg, the evictions will be filed in waves in Washington County, Utah, and Mohave County, Ariz.
The proceedings would halt for anyone who pays his or her balance.
"I hope to shortly get some results," Wisan told Lindberg at Friday’s hearing.
Wisan has said Hildale and Colorado City residents have refused to pay through the years because they do not recognize his authority or FLDS leaders have told them not to pay. At times, FLDS leaders have collected the fees and then not forwarded them to Wisan.
Guy Timpson, a Hildale resident who says he owes $3,000, said he doesn’t like the fee because it wasn’t required until the state took control — homes previously were provided with FLDS membership — and it’s unclear to him how the $100 a month is being used to manage the trust.
"We want to be a part of our decision making," Timpson said. "It’s a taxation without representation."
Lindberg is considering appointing a board to assume the management of the United Effort Plan. But she expressed concern Friday that some of the people she’s considering appointing — mostly former followers of FLDS President Warren Jeffs — are among those who owe housing fees to the trust.
Wisan and Lindberg agreed Friday to allow potential board members to make extra payments to reduce and eliminate their debts. Wisan also has been trying to obtain liability insurance for United Effort Plan board members. Otherwise, any members who are sued for actions by the trust could have their assets put at risk.
But Wisan told the judge he has been unable to find liability insurance. Two brokers he contacted could not find a willing insurer. A third broker is still looking, but Wisan said that broker warned him premiums could be "$100,000-plus."
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