It was a surprising discovery, for one Clarksville city council member, thousands of dollars in unpaid fines owed to the city that has been sitting uncollected since 2008.
Now, the abatement program, which is housed in the building and codes department, is being audited.
The abatement program helps keep the city looking nice.
“If you call and say there's a property in my neighborhood that looks disastrous and the city goes out and finds they're in violation, then they write a letter,” explained Kaye Jones, Ward 11 representative for the city.
Jones added, “If it's not taken care of in the proper amount of time given, then they get a fine and then that fine is expected to be paid.”
Jones told Nashville's News 2 she discovered the uncollected fines during this year's budget process, when the building and codes department listed about $420,000 as income.
However, Jones said that money was not actually in the city's coffers.
“To me, it was an embarrassment that we haven't been able to get them to pay,” she said.
Jones also said the fines are from when the city moved property owner's yards or removed trash.
“Some of these people are on the list year after year for the same type of issues,” she said.
Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan issued a statement to Nashville's News 2 which read, “The city has been working on the issue of collections of these bills since before I was elected mayor. We have made great strides toward better enforcement. As an example, I have directed that an internal audit be conducted so that additional recommendations to improve our effectiveness and efficiency can be made.”
“That audit is expected to be completed in the next couple of weeks. We have also improved communications with the Montgomery County officials who are involved in the process and have added resources to our legal department who can assist in addressing these cases. It should also be noted that the legal process under Tennessee state statutes to collect in this kind of matter is approximately three years from the time the grass is mowed to a resolution under the law. Councilwoman Jones was correct in stating that she has attended one meeting about this issue but the process has been evolving since before she became a Council member. It is a process we are continually addressing and improving and I am committed to continuing the progress we've made.”
Jones said the city has already begun reaching out to people who owe money.
A letter was sent out to property owners in June and so far, the city has collected about $51,000.