published: Wednesday, July 18, 2012
County waives $220k in code liens
By ED BALDRIDGE
SEBRING -- The Board of County Commissioners waived $221,497.67 in code enforcement liens at their meeting on Tuesday, bringing into question the effectiveness of current code enforcement policies.
The first property, located at 3603 Kearly Ave. in Sebring, was cited for nuisance grass.
The property owner was ordered to pay $1,575 in fines and costs in September of 2007 by a special magistrate or the fines would accumulate at $50 per day.
The county cleaned the property after a second lien and order from the special magistrate was issued Oct. 13, 2011, which brought the total cost to $3,061.46.
After four years of daily fines, Fifth Third Mortgage Company, the current owner of the foreclosed property, asked the county commission to waive the $69,900 it owed.
County code enforcement offered a partial release of the lien to allow the property to be sold if the bank would make sure the property was maintained and the fine of $3,061.46 was paid by Sept. 5.
Commissioner Don Elwell voted to waive the lien, but not before asking if his fellow commissioners would consider a counter offer to the bank of $25,000.
"That's roughly 30 percent of the total lien," Elwell said, but could not get his fellow commissioners to support his counter offer.
In March of 2009 the county's special magistrate ordered the owners of 228 Park Lake Drive in Lake Placid to pay $325 in fines and costs for the lack of proper building permits and a daily fine of $100 if the proper paperwork was not completed.
The magistrate added a second code enforcement fine for $275 for required structure repairs on the same property and an additional $50 per day fine if not paid promptly.
Staff asked for a total of $151,597.67 in lien reductions for the two cases and for Bank of New York Mellon, the owner of the property, and Bank of America, N.A., the mortgage holder, to pay just $5,000 in costs, interest and fines.
"This shows us just how broke these code enforcement policies are," said Board Chair Jack Richie.
Richie directed county staff to address code enforcement polices to make sure that similar cases are not left out there until large fines are in place.
"The evaluation of the property in that area is lowered because of the neglect in that area. There is a big, big error in how we are handling these things," Richie said.
"Code enforcement should be going out and stopping the daily fines and initiating a new case instead of allowing it to go on for four years," said County Attorney Ross Macbeth.
Hum... (by: Citizen - 7/18/2012)
Too bad the County Attorney wasnt interested in the County Administrator job.
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