Vacant lot fee could be changing for some property owners

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News 12 First at Five/ Tuesday, July 8, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Lucien Williams owns and pays taxes on more than 30 properties around Augusta.

"I do not need the city to help me take care of my property. I have hired people to come and take care of it for me," said property owner Lucien Williams.

He was upset when he first learned about the $150 vacant lot fee the city is charging for trash collection on vacant lots. Officials have released a new plan that could be good news for some.

"It's a compromise and of course I don't think it's fair. It's a compromise and there may be some services that it will cover," he said.

Under the new plan if your property has an abandoned home on the land you will pay the fee. If it's just an empty lot you may be able to opt out. The new plan is not being received so well by the Commission.

"No, I can't support it. You have some people who own more properties than others," said Commissioner Grady Smith.

Smith said the only way he'll vote for the plan is if property owners who have no water or electricity are also able to opt out of the fee. Environmental Services Director Mark Johnson tried to get the plan added during the committee meetings yesterday but was denied. Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick says he'll need a decision by the end of August. The new fee will be included in the September 15th property tax bill.

"Assuming that correction only comes in late August. We will miss that window to give them an early tax bill. Taxpayers will only get their normal 60 days to pay the bill," said Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick.

The new fee could mean big bucks for the county and taxpayers could be adding extra zero's on their checks to pay those property taxes.
City officials say the money from the vacant lot fee will be used in the Environmental Service Enterprise fund.

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