Bibb officials, buyers pleased with results of land auction

Eddie Peacock thinks he got a great deal when he bought lots for as little as $100 in last month’s auction of Bibb County-owned land.

“I plan on making money off of them; big money, in the end,” said Peacock, who wants to build homes on each of his 85 new lots. “If I can do this, 85 families will have homes, and bad areas will be cleaned up.”

Those were some of the goals of the county auction, which sold off more than 300 properties that had been seized decades ago after their owners failed to pay taxes. The properties — mostly vacant land — may be improved and put back on the tax rolls.

Auctioneer Ben Hudson said a slew of properties was seized in the 1940s, and others were even older.

“One of them went all the way back to 1913,” he said.

Bibb Chief Administrative Officer Steve Layson said the Aug. 22 auction already has put money in government coffers.

Layson said the county made money on the properties because it spent $151,000 and brought in about $215,000.

Yet even with that kind of success, those properties were auctioned off for about 13 cents on the dollar. A Telegraph analysis suggests the properties in Macon are assessed at more than $1.15 million, while those in unincorporated Bibb County were assessed at about $490,000.

“They were giving away land at the courthouse,” said Peacock, who paid about $1,200 for some of his more expensive lots.

Beyond the sale, most of those properties will go back on the tax rolls, bringing in money to government coffers. The Telegraph’s analysis suggests that if the properties were taxed at full value, they’d bring about $22,000 in taxes to Macon, Bibb County, the school system and the state. That’s not millions for a new government building or program, but it helps.

Of course, it’s rarely that simple.

Tax Commissioner Tommy Tedders said property owners can fight to have the sale price used instead of the assessed value. At an average of about 12 cents on the dollar, that could mean a big difference. Kevin Brown, an attorney who worked on the auction for two years, said about 70 of the properties were snatched up by churches, which don’t get taxed.

Layson said the property sale could bring further economic benefits. A homeowner who bought the vacant lot next door could buy tools to clean it up, or hire landscapers to rework the property. Layson said some land owners could build new houses, as Peacock hopes to do.

Peacock worries his plans will be stymied by various government regulations.

“If I can get the bureaucrats to see what I’m doing as a great thing instead of a bad thing, it’ll be great,” Peacock said.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.