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AGO 1951 No. 159 - October 31, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

COUNTY COMMISSIONERS ‑- AUTHORITY TO GRANT EASEMENTS ‑- TAX TITLE LANDS ‑- DISPOSAL BY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES

A Board of County Commissioners may in its discretion grant an easement over and across tax title lands held in trust by the county under the authority and subject to the limitation contained in chapter 238, Laws of 1947, section 11295-1 Rem. Supp. 1947.

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                                                                October 31, 1951

Honorable Norman A. Ericson
Prosecuting Attorney
Pend Oreille County
Newport, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 159

Dear Sir:

            In your letter of September 15th, you asked the following question:

            May a Board of County Commissioners grant an easement to the "Rural Electrification Administration" over and across tax title lands held in trust by the county?

            You are advised:

            A Board of County Commissioners may in its discretion grant an easement over and across tax title lands held in trust by the county under the authority and subject to the limitation contained in chapter 238, Laws of 1947, section 11295-1 Rem. Supp. 1947.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Since lands acquired by a county under tax foreclosure are held in trust as a part of the process of collecting taxes, we must look for express statutory authority to dispose of or encumber the same.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            We have construed the words "governmental agency" contained in chapter 238, Laws of 1947, very liberally and as including agencies discharging governmental or proprietary functions (letter of December 23, 1947, to the Honorable James F. Wickwire, Prosecuting Attorney of Grant County), and are of the opinion that the Rural Electrification Administration is a governmental agency within the meaning of that statute.

            The power to grant a fee includes the power to grant an easement.

            The commissioners must use their discretion to see that a proper proportion of the principal amount of the unpaid taxes on the entire tract is acquired by the county for the easement or that the granting of the easement will not make it impossible for the county to thereafter acquire "not less than the principal amount of the unpaid taxes" on the entire tract on disposal of the fee.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

E. P. DONNELLY
Assistant Attorney General

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