published Friday, January 10th, 2014

Hamilton County preparing delinquent property sale

The site of the old Ooltewah Elementary School, which will be auctioned by Hamilton County, is seen in Collegedale.
The site of the old Ooltewah Elementary School, which will be auctioned by Hamilton County, is seen in Collegedale.
Photo by Doug Strickland.

PAST SALES

Below are the results of delinquent property sales from 2007 to 2013:

Year // Parcels // Sales

2007 // 39 // $182,512

2008 // 26 // $76,400

2009 // 21 // $27,950

2010 // 24 // $54,543

2011 // 51 // $145,583

2012 // 71 // $142,471

2013 // 138 // $938,000

Source: Hamilton County

Hamilton County is gearing up for its next delinquent property sale, and officials are hoping — but not expecting — to have another good sale year.

There are 112 properties up for grabs, including two surplus school system parcels. Commissioners are expected to vote next week on the minimum bids for the properties. The final sale will be in March.

Hamilton County Real Property Manager Paul Parker said this year's sale isn't likely to touch last year's figures.

In 2013, the county sold 138 of its 191 delinquent properties to the tune of $938,000 -- more than it made in at least the six previous years combined.

Those sales, Parker said, were driven by a flood of quality properties falling behind in property taxes during the 2008 recession. It takes about five years for a property in arrears for taxes to be sold by the county.

This year, Parker is not expecting such a big turnout of buyers. Most of the properties for sale are irregular lots -- meaning they are not square or rectangular -- and only 24 have existing structures, according to property records.

Two of those structures aren't delinquent, but they are owned by the Hamilton County Board of Education.

The old Ooltewah Elementary School at 9232 Lee Highway, which closed in May, is up for grabs. The 11-acre parcel has the highest proposed minimum bid of the whole bunch -- $2.2 million. The school board also has its Summit Head Start building at 4821 Pattentown Road in Ooltewah on the list. Its proposed minimum bid is $50,000.

Those two properties stand out because all of the other proposed minimums range from as low as $100 to as high as $3,500.

"That's property that's surplus from the Board of Education. It's not delinquent. We've added it to our sale as a courtesy in hopes of generating some interest," Parker said.

Money gained from the school sales will go back to the school system, he said. But all of other proceeds will go to County Trustee Bill Hullander's office. The trustee will take his cut to cover processing, then the rest will be split among the county and municipalities that have tax claims on the properties, Parker said.

Mayor Jim Coppinger, who worked with staff to come up with the proposed minimum bids, said the county would love to recover some lost tax revenue, but that's not the main focus. The big goal is getting the properties back into private ownership.

"The ultimate goal is for these properties to sell and get back on the tax rolls with people who can pay taxes," Coppinger said.

The county will advertise the bidding and sales schedule after the commission has approved the minimum bids.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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