Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

The recent budget adopted by Del Norte County Supervisors means code enforcement may soon have more money to abate blighted and trashed properties in the county.

Code Enforcement Office Dominic Mello explained Wednesday while his department may not see substantial returns for a while, the revolving fund will eventually prove beneficial to the code enforcement process.

Mello said in years past, money collected from lien properties was treated the same as taxes and deposited into the county general fund. Meanwhile, code enforcement received $14,500 to perform abatements, trash removal and other tasks.

Now, cash from lien properties will be deposited into a fund, allowing code enforcement to perform abatements.

Mello said when a property is on lien, the owner has a year to pay back the county and in five years, the county can sell the property.

County Treasurer Barbara Lopez said the property owner can make the repayment in two installments, including 10 percent accruals. If the owner defaults after a year, the property owner is charged 18 percent interest per year. After five years of delinquent payments, the county may auction the property, with the minimum bid including the lien amount, Lopez said. Sometimes the high amount will keep the property from selling. Auctions are held every two years and unsold properties are held over until the next one, she said.

“It takes some time if it has to run its full course,” Mello said. “We may not see some returns for a while.”

Mello said while it would have been nice to have a funding boost to start the program, he is happy overall that the revolving fund was implemented.

He said he would rather have a revolving fund to operate with than a single allotment.

County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina said the revolving fund could almost double the budget for code enforcement, since the average yearly repayment of liens has been about $14,000. While the amount can go up or down yearly, depending on many factors, money can continually roll over into subsequent years, and stay in the code enforcement budget.

Community Development Director Heidi Kunstal said while the fund does not specifically hire more code enforcement staff, it can be used when Recology, tow truck services or other contractors are hired to perform abatements and cleanups.

While the county Grand Jury in its 2016-17 report, recommended increasing the budget for code enforcement, the revolving fund has been always been in the county code. Added in 1997, the fund has not been activated until the recent budget hearing.

Reach Tony Reed at treed@triplicate.com

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