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Hall County may sell properties to raise money
Bell looks to Norton Jr., commission to create more comprehensive list of countys assets
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Hall County is considering getting rid of its unused or unwanted properties to raise money.

At Monday's Board of Commissioners work session, Commissioner Ashley Bell asked local real estate executive Frank Norton Jr. to talk to the commission about creating a more comprehensive inventory of the county's assets.

"A lot of properties that are on tax liens that we have, we have a hard time getting rid of," Bell said. "I thought it would be a good idea to make an assessment of where we are and get a strategy on how we should either dispose of or use the properties we have to help us with the budget crisis that we're in right now."

Norton said his company, Strategic Insight, has provided similar real estate consulting for other local governments, including the Hall County School Board and Gwinnett County School Board.

"The purpose is to maximize efficiency, inventory and let the commission determine what may or may not be surplus once you analyze the information," Norton said. "Allow the commission to then determine in terms of surplus a policy to acquire property, to declare surplus property and then properly dispose of it to maximize the value for the county, for the benefit of all the citizens."

Bell said he learned recently that the county owns a vacant 40,000-square-foot office space that was most recently occupied by AVITA Community Partners.

"This building has been empty for over a year. I know and is sitting off the tax rolls, not being used, and the county is still currently acquiring more office space but not really looking at how we're going to use the office space that we have," Bell said.

Purchasing Manager Tim Sims said his department keeps an inventory of anything the county has purchased for $5,000 or more. Purchases that cost less are recorded by individual departments.

"Most of the time when we have an empty building or we move something, we either move another department there or we lease it out to a nonprofit," Sims said. "I only know of one building in our control that's vacant at this time."

He said for the county to sell anything, it has to be deemed surplus by the board of commissioners.

The county does host surplus sales, however.

"We usually do it once a year and it's usually equipment and vehicles and things of that nature," Sims said. "When it comes to land or buildings, I don't even remember a time where we've actually sold at a surplus sale any buildings or land since I've been here, unless it is with the tax liens."

Sims said foreclosed properties are not included in his department's inventory.

The Tax Commissioner's Office handles tax sales.

Property taxes become delinquent immediately after the due date, which is Dec. 1 in Hall County. After 90 days, a state-mandated 10 percent penalty is applied.

At the same time, a tax lien is placed on the property, making it eligible for the county to sell in order to recoup the owed taxes.

The office periodically holds tax sales on the courthouse steps to dispose of those properties. Some of those delinquent tax bills are for real estate that is undesirable because it is land locked or in a flood plain, making it difficult to find a buyer at a tax sale.

County officials will provide Norton with information about all of its assets and Norton will return to the commission with a proposal.

"I think that if anything, a systematic way of releasing surplus properties that could go into the coffers would definitely be a help if we could do it in a timely fashion and that may be something he could help us with," Bell said.

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