Editor, The Messenger:

I am a property owner and lifelong resident of Trimble Twp., and I support the Athens County Land Bank’s effort to hasten the demolition of dilapidated, tax-delinquent properties.

Steve Robb’s June 19 article in which Athens County Auditor Jill Thompson explains her opposition to those efforts left me with more questions than answers. Thompson has repeatedly voted against good-faith measures taken by Athens County Commissioners and other stakeholders to respond to community members’ concerns over abandoned properties and the hazardous blight they present.

The auditor’s reason for delaying the process, “conflict of interest,” seems arbitrary because she fails to substantiate her vote with references to laws, ordinances, and provisions or even an explanation of the perceived conflict.

Thompson’s choice to delay long-awaited community improvements citing nothing more than uncomfortable feelings is an example of the political futileness voters have come to resent. Thompson states there should be a change in state law, a process that can take years — even decades; meanwhile, decaying structures and homeowners’ property values cave in around us.

What steps has Thompson taken to obtain information that will confirm or refute the existence of a conflict of interest and what steps has she taken, using the power of her elected position, to advocate for improvement in Trimble Twp. and surrounding villages?

According to the May 2019 minutes from the Athens County Land Reutilization Corporation Board of Directors meeting, there are eight properties awaiting demolition with values totaling $116,340 and a combined tax liability of $73,260.85.

One of the properties, delinquent on taxes since 2007 is valued at $19,520, but $13,268.06 is owed in back taxes. Without assistance from the land bank, such properties sit for decades, property taxes unpaid, with little hope they ever will be.

With help from the land bank, structures are removed and the lots are cleared — making them available for sale to potentially generate desperately needed property tax revenue. Without an expedited strategy for managing abandoned properties, they will continue to rot in our neighborhoods, lowering property value and morale.

Please note land bank meetings are open to the public; all minutes and policies are available on the website.

Diana Chalfant


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