New Chancery Clerk ensuring all services available at all times

Published 7:00 am Friday, October 21, 2016

PLANS OF IMPROVEMENT: Pearl River County Chancery Clerk Melinda Bowman speaks to members of the Picayune Exchange Club.  Photo by Jeremy Pittari

PLANS OF IMPROVEMENT: Pearl River County Chancery Clerk Melinda Bowman speaks to members of the Picayune Exchange Club.
Photo by Jeremy Pittari

Pearl River County’s new Chancery Clerk Melinda Bowman spoke to members of the Picayune Exchange Club about her first year in office.
Bowman took office in January of this year, after winning the seat in last year’s election. Being new to the position, she spoke about the challenges of learning a new job, and some of the things she plans to implement to increase the level of service to residents within the county.
In the Chancery Court Office, residents file land deeds, divorces, mental commitments, mortgage records and handle child custody matters, among others.
That means there are a lot of services in that office and in the past only one employee knew how to do one job. Bowman said she is fixing that issue through cross-training. Prior to procedure changes, at times residents seeking a particular service were turned away because the staff member who could handle a particular matter was “at lunch.”
She also plans to implement the ability to collect payments with credit and debit cards, since her office currently can’t accept personal checks. Bowman said personal checks are not accepted because there are time limits concerning when her office has to issue payments, and personal checks have to clear before the funds are available to disperse.
Her office also handles tax sales, or the sale of rights to property to another by paying delinquent taxes owed. That occurs when a landowner fails to pay their property taxes. If that happens, the property is sold during an auction to the highest bidder. Bowman said the most recent tax sale was held in August, where the county auctioned 42 properties.
Once a person, or more often than not, company, purchase the land by paying taxes due, the original owner has two years to pay those taxes, plus any interest and court fees, to redeem the property. Otherwise, the person or company that paid the back taxes takes ownership. During that two year period interest is accrued on the taxes and costs at a rate of 1.5 percent per month.
Bowman said that most of the time companies are not interested in ownership of the land, but rather to collect a return on their investment through that interest.
However, if a company overbids on the property, they lose that money because the county keeps any overages.
If no one pays the delinquent taxes, the property is turned over to the state.
Another hurdle her office has encountered pertains to budget cuts on the state level. Those cuts affected the number of lunacy beds available for male patients being committed for state provided mental healthcare.
“From our end it’s very sad to say, ‘we don’t have a place for you,’” Bowman said.
Bowman said that while the amount of funding was cut at the state level, the state claims it was the decision of the each facility’s administration to cut the number of beds available.

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