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Editor/Consulting Writer

Individuals hoping to become city property owners scanned the documents available at Opelousas City Hall on Thursday which listed over 100 properties available for sale due to unpaid 2023 taxes.    

Although advertised as an auction, the purchase event was relatively quiet, as seven individuals interested in buying the private properties sat together and began to engage in a lengthy acquisition process that in some most cases will take up to three years.

City Tax Clerk Yocha Payne said that 117 current owners whose properties were available for sale on Thursday still have a chance to reclaim their property even though the potential buyers who were at City Hall indicated an interest in making a purchase.

“Owners can still come in and make their payments for the taxes, but now there are additional fees such as advertising their properties for sale as well as the interest costs now involved. We will let them know what the status of their property is, or they can come into our office,” Payne said.

Payne advised the prospective buyers on Thursday about all the issues which will be required both with the city and the parish for finalizing a delinquent tax purchase. Eventually the new buyers who qualify for a property purchase will have to also pay fees for attorneys who will perform title searches and other necessary information required to complete the final land purchase, Payne added.

The ownership process however remains tilted in favor of the owners,since those who were intending to buy the delinquent properties on Thursday will have to pay the city and parish for all current taxes owed on the properties for at least three years, Payne explained.

City code enforcement may have also had to attend to issues on some of the purchased properties, such as cutting grass and clean ups, Payne said.

Parish president Jessie Bellard said in an interview that sometimes taxes are owed to both the parish and city governments.

Payne said if city properties remain unclaimed, that they are considered adjudicated properties that can be sold by the city.

The parish also conducts adjudicated property sales.

The small number of persons who arrived at City Hall in order to buy the properties was not unusual, Payne pointed out.

On Tuesday night Payne told the Board of Aldermen that there were 174 properties that were available for purchase due to unpaid taxes. That number was down from the 350 property owners who were identified in an official journal publication for owed taxes on Sunday, said Payne.

Many of what was owed on Tuesday was paid the next day, Payne said, enabling the owners to continue ownership for properties for at least another year.

While she is the only employee in the city property tax department, Payne indicated to the Board that her job has been made easier due to the implementation of a computer program and online payment system.

Previously Payne said she had to contend with long lines that formed at the city property tax office.

“We have been getting a lot of positive feedback, because information about the properties has been getting to the customers better. Before everything we did was done by hand,” Payne noted on Tuesday night.