County reduces land appraisal
Lot for sale $33,000 cheaper than purchase price

LAWRENCEVILLE - Even Gwinnett County's government can't escape the falling prices of the housing crisis.

This week, commissioners approved a new appraisal on a house and property declared surplus and ready for sale.

In 2004, the house at 1625 Reynolds Mill Drive in Lawrenceville was purchased as part of a project to replace a bridge over Little Suwanee Creek on Russell Road.

The 0.75-acre parcel and the house were purchased for $230,000, as the project impacted the homeowner with about 0.2 acres of permanent right of way and 0.2 acres of permanent drainage easement, David Tucker of the Gwinnett Department of Transportation said.

"Over half the lot was impacted," he said. "It was pretty devastating for the homeowner."

As the construction ended, a county police officer lived in the home.

The county declared the house and lot - now 0.54 acres - as surplus first in 2006, appraising the value at $197,000, but the property's sale fell through, Support Services Director Steve North said.

According to the vote taken Tuesday, the property will go back on the market at an appraised value of $168,000.

While North said the economy is to blame for part of the price reduction, he said the house, left vacant for a year or so, sustained water damage. Officials do not intend to fix the damage before selling it, leading to part of the price reduction.

However, while the appraisal values are about $2,900 apart, the county could get a similar return on the investment. In the 2006 approval, commissioners allowed the house to be sold at no less than 85 percent of the appraised value or $167,450. This time, the selling price cannot dip below the appraised value.

"This board is more inclined to sell it at fair market value," North said. "I hope we sell it quick. We don't want to be in the landlord business."

North said the county has several properties on the real estate market. They have been on the market several months, but he said he did not know if that was attributable to the housing crunch.

"Our job is to maximize the return for the money."

Also Tuesday, commissioners approved a mid-year reconciliation of the 2008 budget. The operating budget went up by about $17 million, mostly because of programs approved by commissioners in the first six months of the year.

The $3.5 million increase to the general fund is mostly due to an increase in funding to the library and for more sheriff's deputies due to a desire to implement the 247(g) immigration enforcement program at the county jail, Interim Finance Director Maria Woods said. That money will come from the county's reserves, she said.

While she said revenues have remained flat, which caused officials to enact a hiring freeze earlier this month, Woods said the reconciliation is mostly a "clean-up process" for the budget.

"These are actions that have already been taken," she said. "We're just adjusting now. The impact is not as large as it seems."