County, Breckenridge OK owed tax agreement

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Oct. 21—Cumberland County commissioners approved a delinquent tax property agreement with Breckenridge Lake Community Association, ensuring the county is not charged membership dues for property gained through a delinquent tax sale.

"We're still working on a couple of more agreements we hope to bring you fairly soon," Cumberland County Mayor Allen Foster told the commission Monday.

The agreement notes that the county has not paid any assessments to the organization when it has gained property through a delinquent tax sale. The agreement formalizes that practice, similar to an agreement approved with the Fairfield Glade Community Club in April.

The county owns several thousand parcels of property throughout the county, many in planned communities like Breckenridge that assess membership dues to assist in upkeep of amenities. These lots come into the county's ownership after the owners fail to pay property taxes for a number of years and are offered at auction by the Clerk and Master's office. State law requires the county to offer the first bid for these delinquent tax lots, often resulting in those properties being owned by the county.

These lots do not produce tax revenue for the county.

The agreement states Breckenridge will not assess the county those dues or assessments and, in return, the county will assume no rights or membership, like use of amenities or voting in community association elections.

There has been discussion of state law changes that would ensure government bodies like Cumberland County can't be charged monetary fees, though community associations could still place a lien on the property for unpaid dues or assessments and take ownership of the property through that process.

The county lists the property for sale through the county mayor's office, with a list available online at cumberlandcountytn.gov.

Nancy Hyder, 2nd District commissioner, moved to approve the resolution, supported by David Gibson, 4th District commissioner. It was unanimously approved.

Prior to the commission meeting, the delinquent tax committee accepted a bid of $1,203.74 for a property in Druid Hills. The bid represented the total amount of back taxes owed on the lot plus legal fees. Because the bid settled the outstanding tax payment, no action by the county commission was required.

In other business, the commission also approved an $82,500 budget resolution to move forward with paving at the new Election Commission office and at Obed River Park.

The item was not on the published agenda, but timing is critical, said Hyder, who moved to add the resolution to the agenda. The motion was supported by Sue York, 1st District commissioner, and unanimously approved. Commission rules require a two-thirds majority to add an item to the agenda at the meeting.

"We consider it a health and safety issue," said Hyder, who brought the issue to the commission following a work session of the building and grounds committee last week. The committee lacked a quorum and could not vote on items, but discussed several things that will return to the committee when it meets Oct. 25 at 4 p.m. at the Cumberland County Courthouse, 2 N. Main St.

The election commission, 83 Northside Dr., needs the existing parking lot repaved and striped ahead of the early voting period for the May 2020 county primary election, with early voting set to begin in April 2022.

Paving companies typically shut down in the winter. That could make it difficult to complete the project before early voting unless the county moves quickly, Hyder said.

County Maintenance Supervisor Adam Sebia said the county had received a favorable estimate for the work, noting paving the ambulance service facility a few years ago had cost about $96,000.

He proposed paving at the election commission to provide additional paving to the rear of the facility, expanding parking availability there. This would be a resurfacing project, which would save the county money compared to installing a new parking lot.

"We're going to take what's there and reuse it," he said. "We're also going to move the fence back. There's a little more space, access to the bay door and additional parking."

He also recommended paving an existing gravel lot at the opposite end of the building housing the election commission. This lot has never been paved, so it will require more work. This lot serves the road department office and the county maintenance department.

Because of the competitive quote, Sebia also recommended paving at the Obed River Park trailhead. The current gravel lot is uneven.

"As you're walking there, it's a pretty good hazard," he said.

Foster noted the project would also bring the trailhead into compliance with the Americans with Disability Act and help the county secure state grants to enhance the park.

Hyder moved to approve the resolution, supported by York, and unanimously approved by the commission.

The county will solicit official bids for the project. Funding is coming from the county's unassigned fund balance.

Commissioner Jim Blalock, 8th District, did not attend the meeting.

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

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