Whitesburg KY

Late taxpayers risk losing land, county clerk advises court

If you haven’t paid your delinquent property taxes, your tax bill is in great danger of being sold to a third party if you don’t pay soon or make arrangements to pay soon with Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton.

That is the advice being given to Letcher County residents by Letcher County Clerk Winston Meade, who cautioned this week that unpaid 2012 taxes are now eligible to be sold by the state to third-party purchasers that buy delinquent taxes and collect high-interest payments for them through court action including foreclosure. Meade said the third party purchasers are not interested in the delinquent taxpayer’s circumstances and will pursue collection with every means they have at their disposal.

“The third parties will have no mercy,” said Meade. “The state will get their money. They don’t care what happens in Letcher County. The third parties don’t care.”

In 2012, third party purchasers including Tax Ease Lien Servicing LLC of Dallas, Texas, Taxco LLC of Pikeville, and Halifax Financial Group of Greenwood, Ind., filed 90 lawsuits in Letcher Circuit Court seeking foreclosures against property owners whose delinquent tax bills the firms purchased.

Meade’s comment s came at the May meeting of the Letcher Fiscal Court, where he presented the court a check for $2,051 for the final settlement of the 2012 audit. Meade also presented the court with a check for $30,000 for the initial payment in January. He said the total was down almost $20,000 from last year and added that the county was down $133,630 in total revenue. He said one reason is that a number of people have not paid their taxes. Meade said this is not a good time to become delinquent in paying county taxes.

“Come in and pay, or work something out with Jamie (Hatton),” said Meade.

Meade told the court that he has cut his operating expenses as much as possible without taking more drastic action. He said it may be necessary to close the clerk’s office on Saturdays, but added that he didn’t want to do that because the people who still have jobs often come in to conduct business on Saturday. He said if it gets worse, he might have to lay off employees.

“We’ve cut back to the bare bones,” said Meade. “It will be tough going.”

Meade also urged Letcher County residents who purchase cars in other counties to request that the paperwork be sent back to Letcher County. He said that of all the Perry County auto dealers, only Tim Short Automotive and Cardinal Chevrolet automatically send the paperwork to Letcher County, which allows the fees to be collected by his office. He added that all the dealers in Pike County also send the paperwork to Letcher County, but said that other than that, Letcher County loses out on the fees associated with purchasing and licensing a car in Kentucky if the buyer doesn’t make the request.

District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming suggested the court contact its state legislators about the matter, but Meade said the legislature would just laugh because the big car dealers in Louisville and Lexington have more influence with the legislature than Letcher County, which has no new car dealers.

In other business, Letcher County’s already bare bones $9,712,339 budget for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 will see further reductions. In response to a question from Magistrate Fleming, Judge/Executive Jim Ward said the Kentucky Department for Local Government (DLG) told him the budget would have to be reduced by another $250,000. Fleming asked Ward why the budget was introduced in a special meeting last week instead of Monday night’s regular meeting, and Ward replied that it had been done in order to get it to DLG officials for their approval as quickly as possible. He said the budget will have to be approved by the court and in effect by July 1.

“I wanted to get it (the budget) to the state,” said Ward. “It’s a good thing we did. The DLG called and said we have to cut it another $250,000.”

Fleming asked Ward when the court will meet again to discuss the budget, and Ward replied that the meeting would have to be advertised first. He said it will take place within seven to 21 days.

Letcher County Tourism Commission Chairman David Narramore presented copies of the 2013 Letcher County schedule of events to the court and asked that any tourism-related group in the county who wants to be included in the 2014 schedule call 633-5951. Narramore told the court 15,000 brochures will be placed in kiosks at tourism and welcome centers across the state.

Narramore presented $ 385 to the court from the sale of the Letcher County Quilt Trail Book and thanked Anne Bradley of the Pine Mountain Coop, Leanna Mullins of the Mountain Heritage Festival, and Creda Isaacs of the Letcher County Historical Society for their help with the book.

The court also learned Monday that a prayer vigil and anti-drug abuse walk will be held on June 2. The event is sponsored by Action Against Substance Abuse and was introduced to the court by Letcher resident Ted Adams. Adams said he has coordinated the event with UNITE and said it will center on the use of neural electrical therapy to combat drug addiction. Adams said the treatment calls for electrodes to be attached to an addict’s head from a device about the size of a cell phone and stimulate the brain center that produces dopamine. He called the treatment a “miracle” and said it is in use in several other countries but has not been approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration.

Neural electrical therapy is used to treat pain and electrical shock has been used to treat mental disorders for many years, but a Google search revealed no studies of neural electrical therapy for treatment of drug addiction in peerreviewed scientific or medical journals. Adams said the therapy would require an “aftercare” facility to help addicts recover from the effects of their addiction that would include lifestyle and job training.

Judge Ward and others were enthusiastic about the possibility that a treatment facility may be located in Letcher County. Others who accompanied Adams said they had seen the results of the therapy. One woman said her son had been returned to her after many years of addiction through the therapy. A man who accompanied Adams said the treatment had taken nine days to restore his memory and cure him of his addiction. “It’s a miracle,” he said.

Both Fleming and Ward said there is a great need for a drug treatment facility in Letcher County and cited the level of addiction in the region and the toll it has taken on families and friends of addicts. Ward said the county would definitely be a good place for an aftercare facility from a detox center and Fleming agreed.

“We can’t jail our way out of this,” said Fleming. “We have to have rehabilitation.”

Deane resident Chris Yonts told the court he has been looking into a countywide wet/dry election and said he has collected 1,734 signatures plus four more at Monday’s meeting. Yonts said he believes the county would benefit from the increase in tax collections if the county was voted wet in its entirety, and asked the court how many signatures he would need to get the question on the ballot. Judge Ward said it would require a percentage of the voters in the last election to stage a countywide special election for a wet/dry issue. Ward said he was not certain what the number of signatures would be, but that County Clerk Meade would be able to provide Yonts with the necessary information.

In other business:

• the court voted unanimously to appoint Richard Smith of Blackey to the Letcher County Library Board.

• the court scheduled a commemorative celebration for the Wings III air rescue service on June 8 at 2 p.m. at the Wings hangar at Gateway Industrial Park at Jenkins.

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