Albany city leaders tackle eyesores - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany city leaders tackle eyesores

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February 26, 2008

Albany--  Albany city commissioners beefed up an ordinance and agreed to spend thousands of dollars to improve the city's appearance. Their first target? The center of it all, downtown Albany.

They want to rid the area of vacant and dilapidated buildings. It's a comprehensive plan spear-headed by they city's new downtown manager.

Work in the afternoon hours shows the constant changing face of downtown Albany. It's a mixture of those sounds of change along with the downtown sights that keep Kahwanda Carter coming down.

"I absolutely love downtown. It's nice. I bring my kids here during the weekends and on beautiful days," said Carter.

But right across the street from Riverfront Park, the sight isn't as pretty.  People see vacant buildings. "They need to do something with them. It would be nice if they painted them or did something nice with the abandoned buildings," said Carter.

Downtown Manager Don Buie says sights like these are more than unattractive. "They represent a public safety and public health concern," said Buie.

He's been watching them, sometimes with the eye of a camera since he first started his downtown mission. And he's mapping the areas out in his office.  The red areas represent what Buie calls blight.

"If we do not tackle this problem and do it aggressively right now, this will spin out of control," said Buie. So before it gets to that point, Buie along with other city officials collaborated and came up with a comprehensive plan.

"We have to use every measure possible to birng that animal back in because it's just running rampant at this point," said Buie.

The owners of these blighted properties will now be held accountable and have to register with the city and there will no longer be any boarded up buildings for an indefinite amount of time without the city knowing a plan of action for that property.

"We have a timetable laid out for how long a property can stay boarded in downtown and throughout the city of Albany," said Buie. Buildings will also have to be cleaned inside and rid of any potential dangers.

Buie wants two dedicated code enforcement officers to dedicate their work weeks to the downtown area to make sure property owners comply. The cost for all of these changes is $200,000.

"As we begin to tackle all these problems, the citizens are going to be able to tell that it's a $200,000 well spent," said Buie. And that way, a visit downtown for people like Carter and her family is more enjoyable and not disrupted by a blighted sight.

Demolition of dilapidated houses are also part of the comprehensive plan. City commissioners voted Tuesday night to earmark up to $150,000 to code enforcement to demolish those structures. Right now 9 properties are on their list.

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