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Hall commissioners back to business in first '12 meeting
County looking to enforce foreclosure upkeep
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Hall County will consider establishing a "foreclosure registry" that would hold foreclosed property owners accountable for upkeep.

"We are having a problem with foreclosures in the county," said County Commissioner Scott Gibbs at the Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting Thursday. "We have issues with unsightliness in the yards; they have pools that have water in them and the fences are down; the list goes on and on."

The problem, Gibbs said, is that the title to property gets lost in the legal process for months and the new property owner stalls in reporting responsibility.

Meanwhile, the property is not maintained and enforcement agencies don't know who to hold accountable, he said.

Gibbs proposed the idea of the registry, which is based on similar concepts used in DeKalb, Gwinnett and Cherokee counties, at the end of Thursday's meeting.

Gibbs' former home in Lula went through foreclosure last year.

After a unanimous vote by commissioners, county staff was charged with drafting a policy for the registry.

Commissioner Ashley Bell suggested the county find a way to keep the registry "budget neutral."

Meanwhile, the state legislature is currently considering bills that would set guidelines for such registries and put a cap on fees that cities and counties charge foreclosed property owners, according to The Associated Press.

In other business:

  • Commissioners voted 4-1 to increase building inspection and zoning application fees. County officials said the hike would bring the existing fees in line with neighboring counties' fees and raise enough money to pay for the cost of inspection. Bell voted against the hike, calling it the same thing as a tax increase on developers trying to build in Hall County. "At the end of the day, a new fee or a tax is a bad thing in this economy," Bell said.
  • Commissioners voted unanimously to reappoint Randy Knighton as county administrator. Knighton was promoted from planning director to administrator in July after his predecessor, Charley Nix, was fired by commissioners in January 2011. Craig Lutz, the only county commissioner who opposed Knighton's promotion, said on Thursday, "I do think we have the right person in place."
  • Commissioners officially approved the hiring of new County Commission Clerk Melissa McCain. McCain worked with Commissioner Lutz when the two served the city of Flowery Branch.
  • Commissioners also noted that Thursday's meeting, the first of 2012, was much more civil than the first of 2011. The latter featured a revolt by new commissioners Gibbs and Lutz against the sitting county administrator and other top county officials. There were heated exchanges between opposing factions on the council.

"This was a lot shorter than last time," Gibbs said before Thursday's meeting closed.

"Quieter, too," Bell added.

"I know," added County Chairman Tom Oliver. "I thought I was in the wrong place."

 

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