By: James Pruitt
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
Williams County is taking the first steps in a bid to tap into a potential $600,000 in state aid to remove or rehabilitate blighted homes.
The newly formed Williams County Land Reutilization Corp. held an organizational meeting last week to elect officers and get four properties in the pipeline to secure $100,000 in state aid. If successful, it could open the county to $500,000 in additional funding.
It’s not a lock, but the county has to jump through some hoops to even have a chance.
The LRC board consists of County Treasurer Vickie Grimm, two commissioners, Brian M. Wieland, representing the city of Bryan and Todd E. Burkholder, of Center Township. He has construction background.
In addition to setting up the organization and structure, the LRC was to begin the application process for funding through the Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP). Time is of the essence since there is a Sept. 2 deadline.
The county will list the need for participation in the NIP.
To come up with the scope of the situation, Grimm went through the county records to find all the delinquent properties where the value and the delinquent taxes were close, she said.
While that resulted in a good size stack of records, Grimm will put four that need to be torn down in the pipeline. The application will show the county has a land bank and a need. The step could open up the county to $500,000 from the state, she said.
“The four that I am going to put in the pipeline can get us an extra $100,000,” Grimm said.
The money is coming from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, Grimm said. “It is designed to help rehabilitate, take care of blighted houses and get them back on the tax rolls.”
Razing is the not the goal for every house, Grimm said. Some homes have been damaged by fire and let go, but to qualify for the Land Bank, they must be vacant and abandoned, she said.
“We can’t get the money out of them in a certified tax sale,” Grimm said. “So we can give them to a neighbor who had to look at that blight for so many years.”
In the future, the land bank can sell it to a neighbor to get it back on the tax rolls. For now the process involves vacant land a village may be mowing that can be given to a neighbor for a predetermined price, Grimm said.
“Then they start paying taxes on it,” Grimm said. “It get its back to productivity.”
Grimm began researching homes which were delinquent last October, after the state allowed counties with fewer than 60,000 people to form Land Banks. After talking with treasurers from similarly populated counties, she thought Williams County could qualify for help, she said.
The program makes sense for the treasurer because its costs her $2,000 to do a foreclosure on a home valued at $300.
“I am never going to get to that,” Grimm said. “But they can give us a deed in lieu of foreclosure, sign over to the Land Bank and we can put it back into productivity.
“The taxes will be wrote off, but the chances of us collecting those at this point are probably not great.”
It is a great way for people who find themselves in possession of land they don’t want or have a muddy deed to have the Land Bank take it off their hands, Grimm said.
To develop her list she took out everybody who was trying to pay back taxes. What was left was described by the local governments as either to be pursued with tax foreclosure or its blighted and should be torn down.
The initial group has only been looked at from the outside, Grimm said.
The grant will pay for a complete inspection, a requirement to get funding, Grimm said. Some homes are unfit for human habitation with dog feces everywhere, she said.
All of the homes could be eligible, but Grimm hasn’t done the formal inspection. Her office is teaming up with Maumee Valley Planning to help with the inspections and grant writing.
According to MVPO, if the Land Bank is used to acquire a house, other federal money and state can help pay for rehabbing it. Then the county can sell it and get it back on the tax rolls, Grimm said.
“There’s a lot of things that can be done, we are just hitting the tip of the iceberg,” Grimm said.
The treasurer did five tax sales in 2014 and in three of them did not make the county’s money back. One the county got the full amount and the other paid right at the deadline.
“This is just another avenue for us not to have to spend countless dollars to get $500 out of the property,” Grimm said.
While she doesn’t like to write taxes off, Grimm said this way will get the properties back on the tax rolls the quickest. So while she may have to eat some delinquent taxes, at least they can become productive again, she said.
If county qualifies, it will have three years to spend the money. The county will have to spend the funds first before getting reimbursed by OFHA first.
James Pruitt may be reached at