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Garrett County could sell properties deliquent on utilities

Would be part of annual tax sale in May

Megan Miller
Cumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — Garrett County property owners who are 60 or more days delinquent on payment of their water and sewer bills could see their properties put up for public tax sale as early as May.

That’s according to County Administrator Monty Pagenhardt, who said the county has to find a way to recoup the thousands of dollars it is owed for those public utilities.

“The next tax sale is May, so since we already have that authority, those delinquent properties will go forward,” he said.

Since the annual tax sale is held in May, owners who run delinquent in the summer could go nearly a year before their properties could be put up for sale, while owners who run delinquent in the beginning of the calendar year might have only a few months before the county takes action.

Jeff Broadwater, an accountant with the Department of Public Utilities, said as of Wednesday the county was owed $328,322 in unpaid water and sewer bills, from 633 different accounts. That’s an increase of about $46,000 since November, and $25,000 of that increase is attributable to 17 accounts that owe the most.

In November, the county commission submitted a legislative request to Sen. George Edwards and Delegate Wendell Beitzel asking for the authority to sell properties to collect payment, a method also used in cases of unpaid real estate taxes.

But it retracted the request Monday, after Beitzel pointed out, and an attorney confirmed, that the commission already has the necessary authority under existing code, Pagenhardt said.

The commission also retracted a legislative request Jan. 21 which would have enabled it to increase the county hotel rental tax from 5 percent to a maximum of 8 percent. Pagenhardt attributed that retraction to concerns from businesses that the measure would hurt the county’s tourism industry, driving down income from vacation rentals.

Edwards and Beitzel said they will pursue several other pieces of legislation during the 2010 session targeting Garrett County issues. Those include enabling legislation to allow the commission to implement setback ordinances and decommissioning provisions for wind energy turbines, measures to change the way title searches for dormant mineral rights are conducted and solutions to the shortage of OB/GYN services in the county.

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Long & Foster Real Estate for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350