Delinquent owners get message

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 3, 2007

Delinquent property owners, take note: county officials have put some teeth in their threat to haul you into court.

Late last week, the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office filed a lawsuit against roughly 39 property owners who are considered seriously delinquent — at least two years

behind — in paying their real estate taxes.

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The first lawsuit covers 44 parcels of land amounting to $560,333.70. That figure includes $11,000 in court costs. Now that the matter has progressed to litigation, $250 in court costs has been added to the amount owed on each parcel of land.

Lawrence County Treasurer Stephen Dale Burcham said the lawsuit is the last step in a long process to get some delinquent real estate owners to pay up.

“We really prefer not to go to this length. If they’re having trouble they could have come in and talked to us and worked out a payment plan. We can’t reduce the amount they owe but we can set up a payment plan. It is not anyone’s desire at the courthouse to take possession of anyone’s property or kick anyone out of their home. We just want people to acknowledge their civic obligation.”

Now that the lawsuit has been filed, those on the list will get letters through both regular and certified mail, notifying them of the lawsuit and stating a time when they must appear at the courthouse in regards to the lawsuit. This list of defendants will also be published in The Ironton Tribune. Burcham said no payment arrangements can be made at this time; all arrearages must be paid in full. Properties listed in the lawsuit will eventually be sold at auction at the Lawrence County Courthouse.

Burcham pointed out that all of the money collected on real estate in the county stays in the county to fund various government entities. The bulk of the real estate taxes collected go to the county’s seven public school districts.

The last time county officials filed such a lawsuit was in April 2003.