Push to rid Albany of blight - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Push to rid Albany of blight

By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Hundreds of pieces of property in Albany are falling apart. For the past couple of years, code enforcement officers have worked to rid the landscape of blighted structures. So far, more than 90 have been torn down, but the process isn't moving fast enough for some commissioners.

Those rundown properties are more than ugly, they can be a danger, attracting rodents or vagrants and take away from economic development opportunities, and that's why city leaders want more done to take them down.

Commissioner Tommie Postell grew up near downtown Albany. As a teen, he used to skate down Monroe Street on his way to school.  He said, "This building was a beautiful building. As a matter or fact, it was probably one of the most gorgeous buildings on the street."

Sadly, that's not the case today. "It's just a bad feeling to see something of this magnitude right in the city which was approximately three blocks from downtown Albany."

But this building (301 N. Monroe) has been in bad shape for years.  Jon Howard said, "I've been a commissioner for the last 15 years and this apartment has been vacant."

Remodeling permits have been issued several times, but little work has ever really taken place. Finally, it's been deemed uninhabitable and approved for demolition. Howard said, "It's unsafe and it's unsightly."

But Commissioner Howard says many unsightly homes like this get a reprieve from demolition because new owners take over, or they tell the judge they plan to rehabilitate the building.

Judge Willie Weaver said, "I believe it's a balancing act between the interests of the person who bought the property and what the city wants done with respect to tearing the property down."

But Tuesday, the commission made it clear. They want code enforcement, the municipal courts and city attorney's office to work together to get as many of these structures off the streets. Howard said, "I want them to be busy 24/7 because we got to some way send a strong signal to this community and to those landlords that the city will not and shall not tolerate blight and unsightly property." Instead of letting it sit in court for years on end. Of course, that may come with a price.

The city attorney says he needs more clerical help to process the paperwork and city public works would need money to pay for all of the demolitions. If a property is ordered torn down and the property owner fails to do that, the city will demolish the structure, but a lien will be placed against that property until the city is paid back for the work they've done.

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