Harriman officials debate forgiveness

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By Cindy Simpson

Harriman City Council recently forgave a lien on a piece of property for a man who lived nearby and had been taking care of its upkeep. The man requested the forgiveness before he purchased the property.
At the time, it made sense to officials, who appreciated that the city hadn’t had to take care of the property for so long.
When the city council approved another forgiveness, this time on a $3,398 lien for Chrystal Jones at 567 Henderson St., Councilman J.D. Sampson shared his concern that city officials were going to be seeing more and more people approach the city for the favor.
He worried that the city is not recouping the cost of demolishing dilapidated buildings on the lots.
Sampson said that while he probably supported the first lien forgiveness, with a second following shortly after, he’s concerned they’ve opened a flood gate.
“I think we ought to stop and not forgive anymore,” Sampson said.
Officials mentioned establishing guidelines for future lien forgiveness at a workshop, but also spoke of how the forgiveness encourages new property owners to buy empty lots and begin paying property tax revenue on them.
“This is something we need to look at in the future,” Mayor Chris Mason said.
Mason’s concern was not showing any leniency and leaving property to continue to sit unoccupied and not collecting any revenue.
Councilman Ken Mynatt agreed.
“This is putting it back on the tax rolls. I think it’s a win for the city,” Mynatt said.
“You may want to consider lifting a couple more liens to get them on the tax rolls,” Jones recommended.
Councilman Kenyon Mee said he sees Sampson’s point, but also supports forgiving the lien.
“Lets look at each on an individual basis,” Mee said.
The house at the Henderson Street location was torn down by the city, with a lien placed on it.
Jones said she had acquired the property with the idea that it may go to the F.R. Davis Park Association.
Jones said she thinks that the city should go to court against the owners of property in disrepair when they are in disrepair rather than putting a lien on the property for future purchasers to pay.
She suggested one way would be to have a city tax sale on such properties.
Councilman Buddy Holley agreed that the situation didn’t seem fair.
“It doesn’t seem quite right to attach a lien on the tax base,” Holley said.
Sampson said one issue he has with forgiving the liens is the added work on Treasurer Charles Kerley and building inspector Maria Nelson. Both have to take steps to get the lien placed on the property.
Kerley said he needs to know if the city wants to continue to attach the liens to the property tax.
He has to attach the lien manually, and removing them requires sending a letter to the tax attorney to contact the courts to let them know the lien has been forgiven.
Kerley said there are times, including recently, where people come in to pay off the taxes and the lien.