Condemned homes will be dealt with

Published 11:58 pm Saturday, July 8, 2006

The City of Picayune is stepping up enforcement on run down houses and property within the city limits.

The ordinance in the city of Picayune has been in place long before Hurricane Katrina made a short visit with long-standing repercussions but her visit gave those problems more time to sit and wait.

“Out of courtesy, we’ve deferred (enforcement of the ordinance) for a while,” said City Attorney Nathan Farmer.

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Farmer said now there has been sufficient time to get homes damaged by the storm up to code, and the city council is beginning to enforce the code again.

The city ordinance is backed by state legislative action, Farmer said. Now, there has been a big push to get dilapidated homes and property up to code, Farmer said. The city council wants to eliminate potential hazards in case of another storm, Farmer said.

“If there is another storm, we don’t want these building falling apart and causing more damage,” Farmer said.

Shane Whitfield, chief building inspector for the City of Picayune, said that after the storm there were 120 problem areas in the city, now there are 80. Not all of the buildings and property in question are occupied at present, Whitfield said. However, such unoccupied homes and property present hazards to children and provide breeding grounds for vermin, he said.

“Dilapidated homes are just dead weight on a city, that’s all they are,” Whitfield said.

City officials are not the only ones who would like to see these problem areas taken care of, Farmer said. The city has received numerous complaints on the matter from residents, he said.

Farmer and Whitfield ask owners of such property who received notices to clean up to address the council to ask for sufficient time to conduct repairs. The city will work with them on a time frame, Farmer said. Those residents can contact Whitfield or Linda Malone with the City of Picayune at 601-798-9777.

If property is inspected and found to not adhere to the city codes, a hearing will be held to decide if the property is a public nuisance or menace, Farmer said. If the city deems the property as such, then the city will ask the owner to remedy the situation, he said.

If the owner fails to do so, the city will do the work at the owners expense, Farmer said. If the city has to rebuild, tear down or clean up the property, the assessed cost of the work will become a lien on the property, Farmer said. The city also may assess an additional cost for their time and trouble, at no less than $1,500, or up to 50 percent of the work cost, Farmer said. However, the city would rather property owners remedy the situation themselves.

“City resources are better allocated elsewhere,” Farmer said.

If the property owner has received an ordinance violation letter from the city and the owner sells the property to a unwitting buyer without performing the repairs, then the buyer could take legal action forcing the seller to compensate the buyer, Farmer said.