NORMAN — City mandates on developers are resulting in heavier work loads and cost to county road crews, according to the Cleveland County Board of County Commissioners. Worst of all, it’s a problem that is growing rather than shrinking.
Chair Rod Cleveland said he has inherited 2.8 acres of a detention pond that a Home Owners Association in Oklahoma City didn’t pay property taxes on. Cleveland is wondering if he can put liens on the homes in the area to recover the cost of maintaining the property which falls to the county if property taxes remain unpaid, and the land doesn’t sell at the County Treasurer’s June Resale.
“That seems to be a growing problem,” Cleveland said. “We do not have the manpower or the budget to maintain this.”
One of the most important jobs of county government is collecting property taxes which fund schools, libraries, the health department and more. When people don’t pay those taxes over a number of years, state law mandates that county treasurers sell those properties at the Treasurer’s Resale each June.
But some properties are easements, buffer zones, silt ponds, and detention ponds mandated by municipalities. No one buys those properties.
“If a property goes to resale and there is no public bidder, then it is deeded over to the county,” said Cleveland County Treasurer Jim Reynolds.
Anyone with an interest in the property is contacted, if possible, by the Treasurer’s Office prior to the sale.
“We have our sale every year. Taxes delinquent back to 2009 are the ones that will be in the June 2013 resale,” Reynolds said. “They put so much work into contacting the owners. You’ve got easements and other things. The problem that comes is most all of these were mandated by the city for the developer to create. Once the entire thing is developed, nobody cares for it.”
In Norman, detention ponds in Sequoyah Trails and in Alameda Park are two examples of property owned and maintained by the Board of County Commissioners. The Alameda Park detention pond on 24th Avenue Northeast has belonged to the county since the late 1980s according to county records. The Sequoyah Trails Homeowners Association appears to have quit paying taxes on its detention pond in 2006 according to records available online at the Cleveland County Assessor’s Office.
When an HOA goes defunct, there is often no one left to pay the taxes and maintain the property, so taxpayers pick up the bill when the county takes over ownership.
District 2 Commissioner Darry Stacy said he has two or three such properties in his district within Norman.
“Whenever it’s a city requirement they go in and build a detention pond,” Stacy said. “I can’t continue to take these on with my guys. It’s more than we can do.”
County commissioners are concerned about city requirements for a 50 foot buffer in some cases. Commissioners believe they’ll end up maintaining these large buffers that are mandated by the city.
“It’s a problem that hasn’t been solved,” Reynolds said. “The city’s still making requirements of developers. Unless things change, we’re going to have the same problems in the future.”
State legislation is needed for a true solution, but, a former Oklahoma legislator himself, Reynolds said no one at the state capital wants to get caught up in a battle between cities and counties.
“We need the leaders for the cities and the counties to sit down and find a solution,” Reynolds said.
Once a solution is found, the two groups could go to the state legislature and get the law changed.
“It’s going to take the two sides in agreement,” Reynolds said. “They need to get together and solve the problem.”
In other county business this week, commissioners negotiated with COX Business for services and reduced the monthly fee from $361 to $170. County commissioners also approved the following Blanket Purchase Orders this week:
· District No.1 Warehouse: Industrial Specialties $1,500, Department of Central Services $3,000, Dagwell Dixie Inc.$1,000, Jem Glass & Service, Inc. $500, Clark Oil Distributors, Inc. $1,000
· District No. 2 Warehouse: Don’s Mobil Lock Shop, Inc. $500, Del Nero Communications Management, LLC $300, Chappell Tires $750, Clark Oil Distributors, Inc. $1,500, Jim Johnson Oil Company $2,000, A & H Automotive $500, Zep Sales & Service $1,000, Certified Laboratories $2,000, Fleet Pride $1,500, Inland Truck Parts Company $1,500, MHC Kenworth – Oklahoma City $1,000, Mid-West Hose & Specialty $1,000, Rush Truck Centers of Oklahoma $1,000, Home Depot Credit Services $1,000
· District No. 3 Warehouse: Occupational Health Centers Southwest $500
· County Health Department: Eureka Water Company $381, Brooke Jackson $3,713, Kimberly Fisher $50, Tammy Hughes $50, Deborah J. Gentry $50
· Sheriff’s Office: Palace Auto Supply, Inc. $1,000, Hagar Restaurant Service, Inc.$1,000, W.W. Grainger, Inc. $400, Spectro Wire & Cable, Inc. $500, WCA Waste Corporation of America $171