A resolution authorizing the formation of a land reutilization corporation, or land bank, for the county was approved by the Highland County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday.
According to the resolution, “… the existence of nonproductive land … due to foreclosures from mortgage and tax payment delinquencies and other reasons is such to necessitate …” a land bank. Its purpose would be “to foster either the return of such nonproductive land to tax revenue generating status or the devotion thereof to public use.”
Commission president Shane Wilkin said that money to begin a land bank has been requested through the grant funds recently awarded to the Rocky Fork Lake area.
As reported by The Times-Gazette earlier this month, The Rocky Fork Lake Area Safety and Advancement Planning Process (RFL-ASAP) project at the lake won a grant of more than $800,000 to fight crime and improve economic conditions in the Rocky Fork Lake region.
The grant follows Highland County initially being awarded a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Byrnes Criminal Justice Innovation Program “to develop an evidence-based, data driven, community-oriented plan to reduce crime and improve public safety in targeted neighborhoods” in the lake area, according to previously supplied material. The initial grant led to 18 months of work and planning by RFL-ASAP.
Wilkin said Wednesday how much money the county will have for a land bank will be determined by what the Department of Justice approves in the final budget for the recently-awarded grant.
According to Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley, one of the reasons the county has not been able to form a land bank in the past is because there wasn’t the “seed money” available.
Wilkin added that a population requirement, which Highland County did not meet, had also been dropped.
“I think it will be a great tool to use throughout the county,” Wilkin said.
In other business, commissioners reiterated that the work being done at the county administration building and at the county courthouse is made possible by Capital Improvement funds through the state. That money is requested for specific projects and can only be spent on those projects. No general fund money has been used on the projects.
On another matter, commissioners approved a motion to insure the courthouse for the current cost to replace the building rather than to reproduce it. That will add $3,403 to the yearly insurance on the building.
As reported last week, the building was recently reappraised. It is currently insured for $2.64 million. To be able to replace the building following the current appraisal, the building needs to be insured for $7.57 million.
The county also had the option to insure the building with consideration for its historical value, with the appraised value for reproduction at $12.95 million. That option would have cost $7,122 a year in addition to current insurance costs for the building.
Commissioners wondered on Wednesday if it would even be possible to reproduce the building given its historical value as the oldest continually used courthouse in the state.
The Highland County Board of Commissioners meets each Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. on the second floor of the county administration building, 119 Governor Foraker Pl., Hillsboro. The meetings are open to the public.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.