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City makes changes to property cleanup process

By Jebb Johnston

jjohnston@dailycorinthian.com

Some of those who get called upon by the city to clean up overgrown lots and otherwise offending properties may soon stand before a different judge.

The City of Corinth is taking a new approach with some of its property cleanup efforts.

"We want to take some of the grass and junk car and your general maintenance issues and transition them out of the public hearing setting in a regular board meeting to the court system," said Code Enforcement Officer Kim Ratliff.

It is hoped this will have two positive results for the city's cleanup efforts — giving people an incentive to react to the city's requests in order to avoid a fine and the trouble of going to court and, ultimately, to save taxpayer dollars.

"The adjudication process can be costly, depending on how long and what type of work ends up having to be done," said Ratliff.

Some residents who could end up in city court on a cleanup matter may first receive a letter from the city asking them to address an issue within a specified period of time. A summons would then follow, if needed. In some cases, it is possible a resident might just receive a summons.

The city sees many repeat offenders, and the city does not recoup a great deal of the money spent on mowing and cleaning up lots. Through the usual adjudication process, those costs are added to the property tax bill.

"In a lot of cases, those properties will end up going to the tax sale," said Ratliff. "If a person is not taking care of their own property to begin with, more than likely, they're not paying their taxes, either. When a prospective buyer comes to the tax sale and sees all those costs and fines have been applied to a property, that ends up being a deterrent for investors to buy those properties, because the fees don't follow the person. The fees follow the property."

Apart from the seasonal enforcement that becomes necessary during the warm months for untended lots, the city is currently targeting an area on East Sixth Street between Breckenridge Street and North Parkway Street, and letters have gone out to property owners.