BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – The Lee County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to waive remaining property taxes on abandoned nuisance homes in Keokuk, a move they hope spurs economic activity in the area.
Keokuk City Administrator Aaron Burnette asked the board to forgive about $38,000 in property taxes on nuisance properties in Keokuk that are set for demolition. He said Keokuk has budgeted $500,000 to demolish nuisance properties this year. Last year they spent about half that tearing down abandoned homes.
County Attorney Clinton Boddicker said he is currently working up an ordinance to help streamline the processes for all communities in the county.
Burnette said the goal of the city is to get the properties back on the tax roles and redevelopment is the first option.
“This is the most positive response the community’s seen. Some of these properties are a blight on the community. I can tell you how many people have come in to our offices and thanked us for getting some of these cleaned up,” he said.
Supervisor Ron Fedler said he would support the abatement only if the county extended the offer to all communities so they could take a look at their properties as well.
“I’m sure there are other properties in other incorporated cities that have the same problem that Keokuk is facing. If the board does this for Keokuk we should do it for all incorporated communities to be fair for everyone in the county,” he said.
Fedler also said he would like to see a list from other communities as to how many properties could be impacted in their areas as well.
Burnette said it may be difficult for other communities to create that list right away, but he said it’s been good for Keokuk.
Supervisor Gary Folluo said the county already participates in a two-year abatement program for residents who make improvements to their property.
“This is just another step forward economically,” he said.
Supervisor Don Hunold said the board should exercise some caution moving forward.
“I’m spooked a little that this is an open book,” Hunold said. “At what point do we say enough is enough and it could put us in a quandry with the rest of the towns,” he said.
In other action, the supervisors voted to increase the staff at the Lee County Attorney’s office by two full-time employees effective July 1.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting, County Attorney Clinton Boddicker told the supervisors the work load for the department was too much for the current staff to keep up with.
He cited Des Moines County where that county staffs seven full time attorneys, eight full-time support staff, and two part-time staffers. The Lee County Office has two full-time attorneys and two part-time assistant county attorneys, two full-time secretaries and one part-time secretary who is looking to retire. Boddicker said that part-time would be phased out eventually. The cost of the two full-time positions is being estimated at $112,000 combined minus the part-time salary when it is phased out.