Perryville property owners upset at being on higher tax roll

PERRYVILLE — In a bit of déjà vu, the Perryville City Council heard again from the owners of 208 S. Jackson St, a property on the city’s Abandoned Urban Property list for 2016.

The property, owned by Bill and Linda Faulkner, was on the list in 2015, too, but council members approved a plea from the owners to remove it. Perryville taxes abandoned properties at a higher rate than maintained properties.

“Anything that is not in compliance as of Jan. 1 goes on the list, based on my recommendation and the council approval,” said Perryville Fire Chief Anthony Young, answering a question from the Faulkners regarding the property during Thursday’s meeting.

Property owners were notified in October by certified mail of the potential for falling on the higher tax roll. A $100 fee was placed on the properties that received the letter and they were given 30 days to respond on how they planned to come into compliance based upon what was written in the respective letters.

The owners were given until the end of the year to correct problems with their properties. Those deemed not in compliance with the city’s ordinance are placed on the Abandoned Urban Property list and charged the higher property tax rate.

The previous council was given the first list before the letters were sent out. Only two of those members remained on the council after last year’s general election. Current members were given the complete list during the January meeting.

The property on Jackson Street, Young said, has wood that is exposed to the elements, which was the case last year as well. That’s what landed it on the list again, Young said.

“If you look at the physical appearance and the outside of the house, it’s not changed as far as covering it up and allowing it to deteriorate further since we took it off in January 2016. From January 2016 to February 2017, the outside of the house has not been wrapped, nothing has been done to that,” Young said. “The biggest thing I have to go on is the deterioration of the exposed wood.”

The Faulkners said there was minimal rotting wood, which they discovered when they uncovered the structure a few years ago. The house has not continued to deteriorate, they said, because it is oak, like many barns in the area.

 “In your letter, you gave us a method to bring this property, this structure into compliance. We are working on it and have been since May,” Bill Faulkner said.

The property has been in danger of making the Abandoned Urban Property list and tax roll for several years. A letter was sent in 2014 warning the property could be put on the list, but a plea was made to the council in January 2015 and it was removed, Young said.

In 2015, the Jackson Street property was in danger of being on the list again.

“Based on their efforts, I recommended that it be taken off,” Young said on Friday. That included plugging holes and other areas that would leave the structure open to animals getting inside.

In 2016, another letter was issued. This time, the property remained on the list, because they failed to cover the exposed wood, Young said, which is a component of the ordinance.

The Faulkners told council members that they had been working on the property “almost every day since May,” with the exception of the month of November, during which a family emergency arose, taking them away.

The reason for not wrapping it, the said, was that they were working to replace the foundation, and that it is not safe to cover the building until the foundation has been completed.

To replace the foundation, the Faulkners have put steel beams under the house, raising it up so that they could remove the remnants of the existing foundation. They said they plan to put a new foundation under the house and place it on that foundation, then rebuild additions that have been torn off.

“You will now see that the house has been raised 16 inches and the entire foundation has been removed. That was going on when you took your picture in August,” Bill Faulkner said.

Linda Faulkner said they had to work from the bottom up and that the work had been done by the two of them.

“I understand. The outside remains the same as far as being exposed to the elements. That’s what I have to go by,” Young said.

Council member Julie Clay questioned Young on the ordinance, asking “What would have to be done to satisfy you?”

“It isn’t what satisfies me. It’s what satisfies the ordinance,” Young said, explaining that he has to apply the ordinance as the council directs him to and in a way that is fair to other properties in town. “That’s what I have to go by.”

To meet the ordinance, he said, the exposed wood needs to be covered.

“They have to do the other before they can finish that,” Clay said.

Young said he understood that, but he follows what the ordinance says and the structure doesn’t currently meet requirements.

“The fact remains that were in the same shape on the outside of the structure today as we were on Jan. 1, 2016, as far as being covered … The problem is, it didn’t meet the requirements over a year,” he said.

The Faulkners sent a letter in response to Young’s letter, explaining what they were doing in an attempt to come into compliance. Linda Faulkner said they weren’t contacted after their letter was sent in, so they were not aware that they weren’t in compliance until reading of the council’s decision in the January meeting.

She and Young had a phone conversation after the letters were exchanged in which he told her to call him “later in the week” so that he could come talk to them about their property. Faulkner said she got busy and was unable to call back and never heard from Young regarding the house.

Clay said she thought the council could revisit the discussion in a few months, after they have had time to come into compliance.

“What about the folks that have already complied with everything?” Young said.

“I’m concerned you didn’t notify them they weren’t in compliance,” Clay said to Young.

Young said he followed the ordinance to notify them that they were in danger of being on the list via the original certified letter.

“It is up to them to come into compliance. I can’t do any more,” he said.

“You didn’t respond back to their letter,” Clay said.

Young said it wasn’t up to him to reply to their letter, it was up to them to come into compliance, adding that this was not the first time the property or other properties belonging to the Faulkners had made the list.

“It seems like you’re bearing kind of a grudge against them. It seems like that in your tone,” Clay said.

“No ma’am … I have to do what you all advise. That’s what I have to follow. I can’t go out and chase down. Just like when I spoke to Linda on the phone, I was committed already. I told her to call me at the end of the week and I was free. I have heard nothing from them,” he said.

Clay again questioned Young’s tone.

“I understand. But when I get put in the position to follow through what the council directs me to do, thats all I can do,” Young said. “The tone is, we sit here again and I do what the council directs me to do. I expect the council to back me up when it comes down to it.”

City Attorney Lynne Dean said, “we were in the same situation last year. If you’re picking up in frustration in his tone, that’s probably why. What we did last year was have a discussion about the minimal efforts. I feel like I need to talk to you all legally.

“We talked about a timeline last year as well. I advised the council that that statute was met — it qualified as Abandoned Urban Property. The council decided, because of the efforts, to take them off. We are having the same discussion. It meets the standard of the Abandoned Urban Property.”

Dean also said the council could not revisit the discussion to remove the property from the 2017 tax bill, but the council could discuss reimbursing the Faulkners.

“We can refund them, but we can’t change tax bills,” she said.

Council member Steve Bailey asked the Faulkners when they expected to have the property in compliance.

Bill Faulkner explained that it would be a month, assuming the weather cooperated and they were able to get concrete, to complete the foundation.

“Should be shelled in by next season when we go into inspection mode again,” he said.

“We have no other pending jobs; this is our job right now. Be here everyday that it’s not bitterly cold or pouring rain,” Linda Faulkner said.

There were discussions about other properties that had been in violation but managed to come into compliance before Dec. 31, and whether or not it would be fair to allow one property a chance to improve beyond the deadline when others were not given that same opportunity.

“I see both sides,” said Mayor Anne Sleet. “I see (the Faulkner’s) side and I see the person that came in and paid. They had to pay, so what do you do with them? Where do you draw the line?”

No motions were made to remove the property from the tax roll.

In other news, the council:

• Heard from Young, also the alcohol beverage control administrator for the city, regarding the draft of the license applications. No one has contacted Young to apply for a license yet, he said.

• Discussed the potential for building a city website; Clay said she would look into the matter further.

• Heard from Rita Wash, the Boyle County Fifty Five and Alive director, who said she was seeking individuals to be on her advisory council for the group. Boyle County Fifty Five and Alive is through the Bluegrass Community Action Partnership, and is for senior citizens throughout the county.

Follow Kendra Peek on Twitter, @knpeek.