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Code enforcers say they're doing the job

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

August 28, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The Albany Code Enforcement department is back to full strength, and they've got a little more muscle now with stronger laws in place to crack down on commercial property owners.

We first met with new downtown manager Don Buie earlier this year about his plans for Downtown Albany.

His message then was that he would take property owners to court if they didn't comply with code enforcement and come up with a plan for vacant and dangerous structures.

So was he all bark and no bite or true to his word?

We met Don Buie along Front Street, the same location we first met him 8 months ago, and his message is the same today as it was then. Property owners need to put up or prepare to go to court.

"When I talked about either you're going to give me a plan or you're going to court, we're at that point now, and so these very properties that have not changed in eight months, you're going to see a rapid change in the condition of these properties because folks are going to start appearing before municipal court judges," Buie said.

Already, at least three property owners have been cited. The owner of the Heritage House hotel was back in court today and ordered to produce a concrete plan to the judge in 90 days. Two other property owners have been put on notice that they will be cited for failing to board up and register vacant properties.

"It's game time. Either you're ready to play or we're going to play hard ball with you."

With the help of code enforcement officers. Once they cite property owners, they have just days to correct the problem.

"Once we notify them, they have 10 days to register, then they need to give us their statement of plan, secure the property if it's not secure, clean it up and so forth. If they've done all that before the court date which is normally about 30 days away, they don't have to come to court," says Mike Tilson, Code Enforcement Director.

Buie says the goal isn't to drag property owners to court, rather to get them to simply abide by the laws in place. He says most are cooperating, and he's even in negotiations with some property owners for major developments. "The city of Albany will never look the same. I promised you all that when I got here and we are moving rapidly to that conclusion."

So what are those development plans? Well, Buie wouldn't say, but he's promised he will make a major announcement no later than October 28th.

We'll make sure to update you at that time.

One reason code enforcement officials are able to better crack down on commercial property owners is because of the adoption of the International Property Maintenance Code by the city commission and because they have replaced some vacancies in the office.

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