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Abandoned car fines reduced by Middlesboro City Council

In the January meeting of the Middlesboro City Council, the vote was made to amend the ordinance in regards to the fines that are placed on abandoned cars throughout the city.

The amendment to the ordinance lowers the fines on the violations and places them under the Codes Enforcement Board.

“The old code that was being followed was about 30 to 40 years old,” Middlesboro Mayor Rick Nelson said. “This is going to be our procedure for abandoned cars and their removal.”

According to Nelson, City Attorney Blake Bowling is still making recommendations for the amended procedure that does include a reduction of the fine to $100.

Nelson asked Codes Enforcement Officer Tim Kelley to explain to the council and the audience what the amendment to the procedure will include.

“I have been asked to develop a proposal or a policy more or less within the confines of the ordinance,” Kelley explained. “So the abandoned vehicle procedure, this is the best we could come up with and feel comfortable with it. It’s all based on the ordinance that was already passed a couple of months ago.”

The outline and proposal of the abandoned vehicle procedure is broken down into 14 steps that will be followed by the Codes Enforcement Office.

“The Codes Enforcement Offices located the abandoned vehicle, takes pictures and called the Middlesboro Police Department and they identify the vehicle by VIN, license number, owner information, the make, model, all that information,” Kelley explained. “There will be a sticker that we place on the vehicle. If there is anybody at the home, we will knock on the home or the place of business, wherever that is at and let them know that this sticker is the notice of violation that is already covered by our codes enforcement ordinance. We are going to tell them that they have seven days to dispose of that vehicle.”

Kelley explained that doesn’t mean that the violator can move the car three feet down the road or 20 feet up the road that the sticker means to dispose of the vehicle.

“If we return after seven days, and we have to have the police department there due to the fact in order to run the VIN numbers and the tag numbers, it has to be an organization that has the authority retrieve that information for us so we still have to take the MPD with us on that first trip,” he said. “If the vehicle has been removed after seven days there will be no further action and we are done with the case. If the vehicle has not been removed, the Codes Enforcement Office will return after the seven days and issue a citation at that time.”

Kelley said the citation puts the appeal before the Codes Enforcement Board and the violator has seven days to appeal that violation to the board. He explained that the board meets each month and as long as the violator gets their appeal in to the board within seven days they can try to challenge the fact of whether the vehicle should have impounded or not.

The Codes Enforcement Board must keep track of where the vehicle was towed from and where the vehicle will be towed to. Kelley explained that there will be designated permitted impound facilities where the vehicles will be taken to and that the board will keep record of those locations.

“The next thing we have to do is check with the County Clerk’s Office to make sure there are no prior recorded liens against the vehicle,” Kelley continued. “At that time once we issue the citation Codes Enforcement Office will do a letter to the owner, we are required by KRS-376.275 to notify them within 10 working days and any prior lien holder needs to be notified within 15 working days.”

Kelley explained that in the letter they are going to include a letter from the Codes Enforcement Office that the vehicle will be or may be disposed of in accordance with KRS 376.275 after 45 days if the vehicle is unclaimed.

The proposal continues to explain that any prior lien holder has the right to take possession of the vehicle after showing proof of the lien and paying the towing and storing service charges. After 30 days, the towing or storage company will check with the Codes Enforcement Board to see if the case was appealed or if it is still pending a decision of final disposition or sale of the vehicle.

Following 45 days, the vehicle may be sold or legally disposed of and the storage facility will notify the owner by certified mail 10 days prior to the time and place of the sale.

Any personal items inside the vehicle shall be released to the owner or designated representative upon request within 45 days of the date that the vehicle was towed.

“Once the vehicle is sold or disposed of, then the towing or storage facility is going to cut a check to the city for $100 for covering the payment of the fines,” Kelley explained. “There is a stipulation in that paragraph about Fair Market Value, if the values get down so low, say metal goes back to where it’s $2.50 per hundred pounds of weight or we tow half a car out there that doesn’t have a motor in it, so it doesn’t weigh very much, well then if they don’t collect $100 then we are in the position to accept less than that $100 to cover the fine to the Codes Enforcement Board.”

Kelley said then the case will be closed so the Board is not deal with 300 or 400 cases continuing to go on.

“Once the 45 days is over and the check has been delivered to the City for the vehicles being disposed of then we close the case with the Codes Enforcement Board,” he said.

Nelson then explained that the ordinance that they are making a change on is in conjunction with the procedure that the city is going to ask all of the wrecker services to be a part of if they want to be. The change in the ordinance was sponsored by Councilman Bo Green, seconded by Councilwoman Judy Grandey, and approved of unanimously.

The next City Council work session will be held on Feb. 11 and the next regular Council meeting will be held on Feb. 18 at 7 p.m.