This house at the intersection of Broadnax and Columbus streets has drawn continuing criticism from the public. Its owners are on trial; their case is pending. | Alison James
This house at the intersection of Broadnax and Columbus streets has drawn continuing criticism from the public. Its owners are on trial; their case is pending. | Alison James

Archived Story

The house on the corner

Published 10:41am Thursday, July 11, 2013

Code enforcer: 120 days is more than enough to take care of weeds, trash

Although local property owners of the house on the corner of Broadnax and Columbus streets, as well as a house on Hatcher Street, were arrested and taken to court in early May, city officials and community members are still waiting for an outcome on the years-long problem.

After a number of letters and calls from citizens expressing frustration over the state of the houses, Police Chief David Barbour announced at the April 25 council meeting that the couple had been arrested.

“On Hatcher Street it’s been a problem for about 20 years, and with the one over here on Columbus Street, we’ve just been dealing with that for the last two years,” Barbour said.

Barbour said the couple is living in the house on Hatcher Street while they reportedly renovate the house in town.

The issue arose again at Tuesday’s city council meeting, with city code enforcement officer Mike Richardson attending to urge the council to do something more about the continued non-compliance with Ordinance 391, identified as “an ordinance to provide for penalties for failing to remove litter and various debris or to openly store waste, garbage and rubbish.”

“It shall be unlawful for the owner or occupant of a residential building, structure or property to utilize the premises of such residential property for the open storage of any abandoned motor vehicle, ice box, refrigerator, stove, glass, building material, building rubbish or similar items. It shall be the duty and responsibility of every such owner or occupant to … clean and remove from the premises all such abandoned items as listed above, including but not limited to weeds, dead trees, trash, garbage and rubbish upon notice from the city official,” the ordinance reads.

The property owners were given more time to clean up and told to come back in August as a result of observable progress being made on the properties.

Richardson, who has received more than two dozen complaints about the properties, said he was frustrated “because of the amount of time it’s taken to get this done.” The next court appearance will mark 120 days in the system.

Although council members agreed the process has taken too long to reach a conclusion, city attorney Robin Reynolds advised against interfering with the court system.

Long term plans, if necessary, include clean up by the city with the cost posted as a lien on the property.

The council also discussed a number of recurring topics, including:

- finances. Mickey Tarpley reiterated the necessity of a financial statement being provided to every council member at the next meeting to be sure everyone is clear on the city’s real financial state.

- the fire truck, which has not been picked up from Decatur. The truck is ready, but firefighter Jeanna Brewer said she doesn’t know when the department will send someone to pick it up. The front end of the truck also has to be re-aligned.

- the zoning board. The council voted to appoint Melissa Oliver to the board.

- the McKelvey building. Mayor Joe Smith said work on the building has begun, and the city should be able to make the move in December.

- the animal ordinance. Members of the animal ordinance committee discussed meeting Tuesday to continuing examining the proposed ordinance.

The council met in executive session for about an hour to discuss personnel issues, pending litigation and KwangSung.

Before adjourning, the council voted to give Smith the authority to go to Montgomery and attempt to negotiate an Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs grant for the upcoming KwangSung expansion.