Valdosta Daily Times

December 8, 2012

New Mayor guides City into action

Lake Park City Council to force remission of back taxes

Jason Schaefer
The Valdosta Daily Times

LAKE PARK — Under its new mayor, Eric Schindler, the Lake Park City Council displayed animosity among its members and took more than two and a half hours to move through its agenda.

Still, decisions were made to continue using the bill-tracking system in place for the past 15 years, to purchase new fire safety equipment for firefighters, and to issue citations for 22 Lake Park property owners owing back taxes in the total amount of more than $13,600.

These decisions seemed to impress the citizens in attendance who have remained critical of the slow progress of the Council in previous meetings. At least three citizens took notes during the meeting, and the Council allowed them to interrupt from time to time as they conducted their business to remark on how the decisions were being made, guiding the Council through the evening.

It was the second regular meeting for Schindler, who appeared in control of the Council and its progress, but referred to City Attorney Rob Plumb first before proceeding on many decisions. He allowed comments from citizens and council members to influence his opinions on several issues, as well.

The meeting was off to a rocky start, with the Council divided on both the financials and the minutes from previous meetings. The minutes passed 3-0 with Council Member Russell Lane abstaining, and the financials passed 2-1 with Council Member Shauneen Moss against and Lane abstaining.

After hearing citizen’s concerns, during which one citizen expressed the opinion that the Council was making decisions that did not follow the City’s charter, the council expressed further contention on the issue of whether to purchase two fire coats and pants and four pairs of leather fire boots in the amount of $4,166.

After discussion of the limited availability of funds from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST VI), the council passed the decision unanimously.

Appointments to the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Greater Lowndes Planning Commission were put off until later council meetings, with the Council taking no action on the second appointment, leaving the future of the Commission in question.

The Council passed two appointments to the Zoning Board by a vote of 2-2, with Schindler breaking the tie. The two nominees felt that if half the Council was not in favor of their appointment, they should not serve, they both said.

The Council took another vote to table the appointments until more nominees could be found and their resumes could be considered individually. The motion passed 3-1 to table until the Jan. 8 meeting.

Schindler announced that the position for the Commission was open after appointee Kevin Coggins “never showed up to the Planning Commission meeting,” and asked for a motion to table. When there was no motion, he asked for a motion to nominate someone else, to which there was also no response.

After interjections of criticism on the Council’s failure to take action on the item from the audience and Mayor Pro-Tem Sandy Sherrill, Schindler moved to the next item on the agenda.

The continued use of the OpenRDA software for the management and tracking of the billing schedules and other budgetary items was passed 2-2, with Schindler breaking the tie. The audience applauded the decision.

Past due property taxes were discovered to stand in the amount of $13,623.72 from a variety of Lake Park property owners. Some of the back taxes have been owed in excess of five years, according to comments from the Council, who blamed the failure to obtain the payments on the management of previous mayors.

Schindler asked Plumb for the next step in the process to force the remission of these taxes owed, to which Plumb responded “put a lien on their property, advertise it and sell it.”

The Council agreed unanimously to send out final notices to the 22 property owners and pending their continued failure to respond, to take Plumb’s recommended action.

Citizens in the audience asked to see the list as a matter of public record, to which Sherrill responded by reading off the names and amounts owed individually.

Union Cathedral Church owes the most in back taxes in the amount of $4,115.07. Sirrah Properties owes $2,841.07, and Yolanda Holley owes $1,555.58. The rest of the property owners owe less than $1,000.

Bishop Wade McCrae, owner of the Union Cathedral parsonage, said the taxes were owed on his property by a previous owner, and that he is working with an attorney to find out if he is still responsible for those taxes.

“When the house was purchased, something slipped through the cracks,” McCrae said. “We have been trying to make sure that the tax bill should have fallen on us. We purchased it as a church parsonage, which is exempt from taxes.”

The Council also unanimously agreed to issue a citation to Dry Clean City, which owes $372.16.

At around 9:45 p.m., near the close of the meeting that began at 7:30 p.m., one citizen commented that she felt glad that Lake Park finally had a mayor who “has the city’s problems at heart.”

Schindler thanked the citizen for her comments and promised the audience that “we’re going to get there.”