When forensic accountant David Sawyer told the Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) about some of the issues he found with spending at the Nelson Heights Community Center in May, one items brought to the BOC’s attention was the center’s purchase of land that was later transferred to The Rising Son Christian Church.
That 63-acre tract of land came in front of the BOC again Tuesday as they were told about back taxes, fines and a lien by the city of Covington totaling $11,237.44 due on the property, located on Laseter Street adjacent to Nelson Heights Community Center.
Back taxes for the years 2008 through 2012 were owed on the piece of land purchased in 2014. A structure on the property was condemned and demolition by the city of Covington for a total of $7,000, which placed a lien on the land.
To deal with the money owed, County Attorney Megan Martin laid out three steps the county could take. They could:
• pay the back taxes and fees,
• reduce the taxes owed by waving the penalties and requesting from the city of Covington to release the $7,000 demolition lean, or
• sell the property and pay off the back taxes and use the excess funds to pay off the demolition lien.
The BOC questioned the third option because the county could not find the 2014 documents on the price the county paid for the property.
“It is my understanding through research that [sale] documents could not be found,” District 5 Commissioner Levie Maddox said.
Interim County Manager Lloyd Kerr said the tax assessor’s office did not have a record of the sale and that the document may be in one of more than 200 files of boxes transferred to the county after former county attorney Tommy Craig was released from his duties in November. Kerr, however, said there was no inventory list of the contents of those boxes, making the search for specific documents difficult.
“There should be something there,” Kerr said. “It has been customary for the county to allow the county attorney to hold all documents related to transfers of land. The amount paid should be reflected in, I would think, that transfer of that sale.”
The board voted to have the county clerk research the minutes of when the land was purchased to determine the amount paid for the property. Further discussion on the issue was tabled until the June 21 meeting with a unanimous vote.
District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson, who is on the boards of Nelson Heights Community Center and Rising Son Christian Church, said the purchase of the property was agreed to by the BOC in an executive session, and the status of the title was approved.
Martin laid out a timeline of the property’s land transfers starting in 2006.
According to Martin, in 2006 the land was sold at auction and abandoned for several years. Covington issued a municipal order to declare the residence a nuisance. The property was then acquired by the Nelson Heights Community Center in 2012, but the $8,000 in tax liabilities against the land, were not paid at the time. The Rising Son Christian Church then acquired the property on July 17, 2014. The purchase price is unknown at this time.
“My impression is that several attempts to collect the [$11,237.44 tax and city lien] debt did not pan out,” Martin said.