City updating property ordinances

By Mark Bell - For the Enterprise

Loyall City Council continues to seek options for shoring up its declining revenues through ordinances designed to tie the collection of debts for services to the property’s owners.

During their regular meeting in June, council members hoped to take a look at some model ordinances, but were told their sources within the Kentucky League of Cities had been unable to locate any so far.

According to City Treasurer Mandy Longworth, Chris Johnson with the League of Cities said there is no state statute directly tied to this issue. It is a matter of case law.

Longworth reported that she and Councilman Charles Lovely had discussed some models from other cities that do what the council has in mind. Those should be available for review by the time Johnson sends case law for the city officials to study.

Council did review a copy of the city of Harlan’s ordinance on blighted properties, parts of which they could include as part of their effort to update the ordinance.

Council member Trena Cornett noted a concern she has about language regarding “abandoned shafts, wells and basements” because residents may be unaware they have old septic systems.

“I know at my place, I filled in like three between my parent’s property and mine,” she said. “I did it for precautionary reasons.”

Mayor Longworth said there have been occasions when he had to pull old systems out because people have been driving around their property and fell through an old septic tank.

“I think mostly what we would be interested in here is the old buildings that are beyond repair, that are a nuisance and danger,” the mayor said.

Attorney Scott Lisenbee said the city would pay a fee of $300 to send these letters out, but the biggest expense would be for demolition of property because the city would have to pay for that.

“We don’t have a great deal of big structures, except one on Cedar Street and the one at the bridge on Chad Street,” the mayor noted, “but it belongs to a bank and they might respond when we send them a certified letter and they may go ahead and take care of it.”

He advised council members to look at the proposals in detail and express their concerns while the ordinance is still being drafted.

While the city currently has a nuisance ordinance on the books, the mayor said they can combine that with the blighted building ordinance.

Once complete, letters can be hand-delivered to property owners by the police department or via certified mail, the mayor said.

“We can give them so many days to correct it,” the mayor added. If property owners do not respond, then the city can hire someone to handle the demolition work, “and they have to be liable for all of it. Like with the blighted building, we can even recover the lawyer fees.”

The mayor reminded the council a special meeting could be called so the city attorney could be available to address any questions they may have.

Cornett recalled an experience she had while serving on local jury duty that involved a property dispute and the jury was taken to Evarts to look at the property involved.

A law Cornett referred to as “Adverse Possession of Property” says, if you can prove by pictures and or receipts that you have maintained the property for the minimum amount of years, you can take possession of it.

In the case she served on as a juror, Cornett reported the person who was taking care of the property took possession of it. The law applies particularly if it is adjacent to your property, she added.

In other action, the council:

• Agreed to send a thank-you letter to James Carmical for a recent donation to the city park;

• Agreed to the mayor’s plan to add a part-time worker to help when the gym and cafeteria are rentaled on Saturdays;

• Approved Clark Bailey’s suggestion the city look at developing Loyall memorabilia, such as old school T-shirts and city postcards, for display during the weekend flea market.

• Held the second reading of the budget for 2016-17.

By Mark Bell

For the Enterprise

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