The Union Recorder

April 4, 2013

County looking to sell surplus properties

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder


The Baldwin County Commissioners discussed surplus property sales, a summer pool lease, and the need for future financial goal planning Tuesday.

• Surplus property tax sales upcoming

Baldwin County acquired at least 50 properties under tax sales. The county commissioners discussed the future of these locations at this week's meeting.

“These properties really need to be bringing in some tax revenue instead of just sitting there,” said Ralph McMullen, county manager.

Currently, the properties are divided into regular and judicial sale categories. The judicial sale group, totaling 40 percent of the list according to county attorney David McRee, can be sold immediately.

“The county has good enough title on those properties to go ahead and sell them now,” McRee said. “Those are ready for you to do whatever you choose at this point.”

Those within the regular sales area require a different procedure yet to be determined by the county.

Sammy Hall, District 3, mentioned possible land banking of the assets.

“We could put all those together and make a land bank that could be used for future development, whether it's a subdivision or an industrial area depending on where it's located,” Hall said.

All county officials present agreed there are pressing maintenance issues because the properties centered in the Oaks and Preserve at Meriweather areas are not getting road patching, ditch maintenance or grass cutting.

McMullen said state law prohibits the use of county manpower or spending to service those “private roads.” He added the county is working through the ownership conundrum and hopes to get the item on the work session agenda for Monday, April 15.

“The developer went bankrupt before these roads and right of ways were transferred to the county. We are getting calls and work orders on a regular basis. Those roads are not technically county roads,” McMullen said Tuesday.

Johnny Westmoreland, District 5, has heard complaints from the affected property owners.

“One of the issues brought up to me is that they are paying taxes too,” Westmoreland said. “At the same time we can't do anything to private property until it's turned over to us.”

• GC pool leased for limited summer dates

McMullen informed the board that Georgia College and the county entered into a leasing agreement for summer recreation pool use. The recreation department will have limited use from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on dates during the end of May and select days in July.

“We are at least looking at having some swimming available for the little ones at the recreation department,” the county manager said.

Emily Davis, District 1, asked if that agreement included the public as well. McMullen said he would check with the college on that point.

Getting the budget together to update county recreation facilities is paramount, according to District 2's Tommy French. The county has no pool and needs a solution.

“We need to look at a way to improve our recreation department as well as having a swimming facility,” French said.

Henry Craig, District 4, spoke of the importance of swimming as a life skill and asked if it would be part of the summer camp programming.

McMullen said the leased use was for recreation play not a stated instructional swim use.

County finance director Dawn Hudson said the budget used to pay someone between $6,000 and $7,000 to provide swim lessons but didn't include that line item for this year.

Westmoreland suggested using the Georgia College staff overseeing pool safety to provide that service.

“GC probably has the people there to work the pool,” he said. “They would be your best bet.”

• Craig urges board consideration of budget goals

Craig complemented county staff on suggesting proposed two-year budget and five-year capital investment plans. The commissioner said creating more written financial policies would direct the finance staff towards success.

“I think our county needs specific guidance as to what our goals are within the budget process,” Craig said.

He said the board should concentrate on the general fund balance issue now not later.

Davis wants something for county employees to become part of long-term goals.

“In five years they haven't had a raise. That's a little much. I think we need to consider cost of living,” Davis said.

Walking that thin line between saving and new expenditures is difficult.

“The challenge is being able to spend and save money at the same time,” Hall said.

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