Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Idea of raising taxes on vacant, abandoned property meets resistance from city officials

By Cody Porter
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Monday’s Midway City Council meeting presented council members with a list of 20 recommendations from the Midway Property Maintenance Committee, aimed at speeding up the process of renovating or removing abandoned buildings.

The recommendation for much higher taxes on vacant, abandoned property sparked the liveliest discussion, with mixed opinions.

The proposal would raise the tax on abandoned properties to 75 cents per $100 worth of value, to encourage property owners to bring them into compliance with the building code.

“I’m not so sure about the accelerated tax provisions,” Mayor Tom Bozarth said. “If that’s really going to be a benefit, we can step up the enforcement part of it in a timeline of six months to 60 days.”

Council Member Sharon Turner, chairman of the Ordinance and Policy Committee, to which the recommendations were delivered, was on the same page with the mayor.

“Like the mayor, the accelerated tax thing – I kind of agree,” Turner said after the meeting. Still, Turner said needed more time to look over the recommendations. “We definitely need to do something,” she said. “We’re headed in the right direction, I think.”

City Attorney Phil Moloney also questioned the tax proposal, saying, “If people aren’t fixing up their building, then they’re probably not paying their taxes.”

But Council Member Dan Roller, chairman of the committee, replied that of the 25 properties currently listed, 18 were vacant, and only three of the 25 had unpaid tax bills.

“We talked to the deputy chief of police and there’s not a large homeless problem here, so we don’t have squatters or vagrants breaking in or living in them,” Roller said.

Following the discussion of higher taxes, Bozarth said he wanted the city to establish its own property maintenance code to aid enforcement of the ordinance. Moloney noted that there is a uniform, international code for property maintenance, but Roller noted that the committee’s recommendation was for adoption of its own code.

The proposed ordinance, included in the recommendations, comes by way of Ordinance No. 2011-32 in Versailles. The recommendations also include the creation of the Midway Property Review Commission, which would hear appeals from property owners.

The committee also recommended that Midway have an anti-noise ordinance. Bozarth said he would have an assistant police chief discuss that with the council. For a PDFof the recommendations, click here. For one on the current inspection process, go here.

Rotarians seek funds for needy kids

The guest of the council at the meeting was Sandy Jones of the Versailles-Woodford County Rotary Club.

Jones said that due to the Family Youth Resource Service Center funds being depleted, the club is attempting to raise money for children as part of the Helping Hands Helping Kids "Spring Break Back-Pack Program." Of the 150 children in the county’s program, 35 live in Midway.

She said the goal of the Back-Pack Program is to raise $25 for each child that will be put towards a gift card to be mailed to their home that will provide food for them during the week of spring break.

The program enough money to feed children during Christmas break. “It’s the holidays, it’s the downtime,” she said. “We need to step up and take charge.”

Jones said the Rotarians have a week remaining to raise $3,700 and have only raised $600. “You may see us out on the bypass,” she said. “At this point it’s okay, we may be out there on Saturday if we don’t reach our goal by then.”

Other business

The council unanimously gave second reading and final passage to the revised parking ordinance, which can be downloaded here.

Business owner Libby Warfield opened the meeting by expressing her interest in the city adding licensed businesses to the Meet Me in Midway website. The inclusion of such businesses would allow locals to see that they are getting a certified contractor, such as a licensed plumber, Warfield said.

After saying Warfield had a good idea, Bozarth said he wanted to take time to mention the incident that occurred Saturday evening in Midway. An 11-year-old boy wandered from the care of his grandmother and became lost for a lengthy amount of time.

Bozarth said that after a Lexington police helicopter and a prison’s bloodhounds were brought in, the boy was found sometime after nightfall, around halftime of the Kentucky-Iowa State basketball game.

In addition to mentioning the contributions by the Lexington Police Department and the prison, Bozarth thanked the 40-plus volunteers and three members of the Versailles Police Department, Sgt. Michael Fortney, Officer Carlos Carcamo and Officer Nathan Craig, for their efforts.

No comments: