Region 8 city owed thousands for house demolition - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Region 8 city owed thousands for house demolition

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) – City council members in Paragould Monday night voted in favor of a resolution to attach liens on four properties that violated an ordinance of city codes. Mayor Mike Gaskill told Region 8 News the liens are being attached to recoup money lost by the city when it demolished residential properties.

Gaskill said the city is owed $6,760.81 to cover the cost of labor, equipment usage and mail fees for four properties. The properties were located at 323 S. 5th Avenue, 608 S. 7th Avenue, 211 S. 14th Avenue and 5311 Lisa Street. Council members voted unanimously in favor of the measure.

"They had earlier been condemned and what we did once they were condemned. The owners of the properties had not come and complied with the ordinance," said Gaskill. "These four residences did not comply with the ordinance, so we went in and tore those houses down."

Gaskill said it's one of his top priorities to make sure structures are habitable in the city. He said three years ago, he and the city council appointed Monty Martin, a retired Paragould police officer of more than 20 years, to handle condemned properties as a Code Enforcement Officer.

"I dealt with 538 properties in 2008. In 2009, it dropped to 463 complaints against a property," said Martin.

Martin said he responded to 311 complaints in 2010. He said the fact the number of calls have dropped three years straight is significant.

"It's another residence that's abandoned and run down and we've got some complaints about people being inside and staying there," said Martin. "They're (residents) proud of the town they live in and they want to see it kept up to good standards."

Gaskill said property owners have 30 days to respond to the city once the process of condemnation is underway. In many cases, according to the resolution, the city is unable to obtain property records from the Greene County Tax Collector's Office to reach the owner. Once the owner has been notified, they have 30 days to respond.

Currently, Paragould has no properties under condemnation; however, Martin said three properties are in the condemnation process.

"You have some people say go ahead. You have some that just ignore it and then you have some who respond and don't do anything," said Gaskill. "A lot of times these homes that get condemned are not safe to be inhabited. Kids might get in there and play, and varmints, animals can get in and cause problems there."

Gaskill said maintaining properties is a matter of public safety. He said criminal activity and foul play commonly take place in dilapidated structures.

"There were 16 residences in the city of Paragould last year in 2010 that were taken down, 7 by the city, 9 by the people who own them," said Gaskill. "We didn't get in this situation overnight. It's going to take us a while to get cleaned up, but we are more proactive now than we ever have been."

"By doing the way we're doing it, we use our own personnel to tear the houses down and we just charge the folks the time and equipment that we use and we put a lien on the property and when the property taxes come due for them to pay their property taxes, they have to pay that lien," said Gaskill.

Gaskill said the demolition of worrisome properties is also good for growth.

"It frees up some ground for development. People might want to come in and put a residence back on that house or a duplex or something and it would actually help spur the economy," said Gaskill.

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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