The Harlan Fiscal Court discussed the fate of some county-owned flood plain property during a meeting on Tuesday.
Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley said Magistrate Bill Moore had asked for the item to be put on the court’s agenda, and handed the floor over to him.
“We’ve got several areas…different people are wanting to lease this property,” Moore said. “Some of it is leased; some of it is not, according to the old administration.”
Moore said the court should come up with a method to lease or sell the property in order to remove the liability from the county.
Mosley suggested a land use agreement might be a better option.
“Land use agreement is potentially better than the term lease,” Mosley said. “The disposition of public property process is a very cumbersome one. As we have witnessed through the piece of land on Airport Road that we’ve been trying to surplus and sell for the last six months, it’s very time consuming.”
Mosley explained the process not only can take a long time to occur, but may not be financially beneficial for the county.
“The argument I’ve heard from the standpoint of selling (the properties) is that it does generate some revenue for the county and also gets them on the tax roll, but if it’s someone acquiring property that would be considered negligible and there would be no increase in tax assessment,” Mosley said. “Getting back to leasing them, what we had been attempting to do is map all properties, and there has not been a lot of progress made in that.”
Mosley said he is not opposed to leasing the property, but he would follow the process laid out by auditors in an audit of the former administration.
“A lot of the property is no benefit to us,” Moore said. “It joins up to other people’s property, and it’s hard for us to enforce an ordinance to make people clean up around their house when we’ve got properties grown up in weeds.”
Moore made a motion to set up land usage agreements on county-owned flood plain properties.
Magistrate James Howard asked if this would impact properties the county had already leased out.
“The ones that are leased have agreements in place,” Mosley said. “What we were hoping to do was review all those and structure competent agreements between the court and those lessees and get those court approved.”
Mosley said he did not want to enter into new agreements when it is unclear if an agreement has already been made with another party.
“I think what we really need to decide is do we want a lease or do we want a user agreement, and are the auditors acceptable to the user agreement versus the lease,” Mosley said. “I think we still have to get the house in order from the perspective of what’s in existence out there, because there’s a lot of people that have gardens, park their cars, have playgrounds, etc. on these pieces of property that think they have a lease and the audit says it’s not a lease. It’s not valid because the court didn’t approve it and it doesn’t have language consistent with a lease. So, my opinion is — although I completely agree with Mr. Moore that we need to give people the opportunity to have a shot of these properties — fiscally we have a lot to get in place before we do that.”
Mosley mentioned there were over 1,500 properties which must be researched.
“The problem is, the old leases were so bad…some of them don’t even list a parcel number,” Mosley said. “Some of them don’t even list a point of contact for the person that had been leased the property. It just has their signature. Some of them have a name and a phone number, you couldn’t mail a letter to tell them to come in, you call the phone number and it’s been disconnected. So you have no way to contact these people.”
After some further discussion, Moore’s motion died for lack of a second.
“I will commit to you Bill (Moore), that we will get a process in place to address this moving forward,” Mosley said. “Let’s try to come up with a process that works for all of us.”
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde