CROWN POINT | Lake County officials are going after the county's 75 biggest delinquent taxpayers.
But the Lake County Board of Commissioners is limiting how much money their three bill collectors can keep in fees.
They rehired Martin A. Wachel and attorneys Jewell Harris Jr. and Alexander Lopez to pursue the property owners with the highest amounts of overdue taxes. John Dull, county attorney, said the target list will include only those who have failed to pay taxes for more than five years.
Dull said the three collectors, who had previously done this service for the county, will be paid 10 percent of all overdue taxes collected in out-of-court settlements and 25 percent of all cases that are taken to trial before a judge.
However, he said the county is capping their fees at no more than $200,000 per individual collector over the 12 months of their contract.
He said the county is trying to avoid the problems it experienced with a previous collector who made millions from an uncapped relationship with the county.
Roosevelt Powell, the principal officer of Gary-based U.S. Research Consultants Inc. received nearly $4 million in commissions working for the Lake County treasurer's office between 2000 and 2006.
This relationship ended after federal prosecutors indicted Powell in October 2006 on fraud charges. A federal jury found him guilty in 2007 of conspiring to illegally reduce taxes owed on delinquent real estate in Gary. He served about two years in prison.
He is still suing the county for $1.4 million in fees he said the county wrongfully denied him.
Lake County Treasurer Peggy Katona said her office just finished a tax sale where real estate speculators paid the county $7.7 million in an auction of 359 parcels owned by delinquent taxpayers.
She said a change in state law made the tax sale less lucrative for buyers, who had purchased almost twice the number of delinquent properties in the 2014 tax sale.
Commissioners signed an interlocal agreement with the city of Crown Point to finalize a deal where the city will treat the sewage from the homes of 200 residents of the Hermits Lake and Hawthorn Hills subdivisions.
The two rural subdivisions, southwest of the city limits, had been polluting south county waterways since the late 1950s.