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Earle may call in EPA to help with dilapidated properties

Councilman: ‘… you will start seeing houses come down’

news@theeveningtimes.com

Earle is still making an effort to clean up dilapidated properties, but may call in the Environmental Protection Agency if residents continue not to cooperate.

Councilman Bobby Luckett, who also serves as the building inspector, told the city council that he is still working on a list of properties to condemn or need to be cleaned up, but may need to take drastic measures to get people to comply.

“It seems like it is taking a lot of time,” Luckett said. “But we’ve got to make sure we are within the law. Once we do that, then you will start seeing houses come down.”

One property in a subdivision which has large trucks and numerous inoperable vehicles and has been cited numerous times has still not removed them and it may take the federal government to do something about it.

Luckett said he spoke to one of the area’s state representatives who suggested the city might want to call in the EPA, but warned officials that they may get more than they bargained for if they do.

“He was waiting on my request to have them come in,” Luckett said. “But I want to bring it to the council. Do we want them to come in, because when they come in they aren’t going to just go after that particular area. They are going to sweep the city.

And anybody with dilapidated houses or cars that aren’t running with oil leaking or weeds growing up, they are going to cite them.”

Mayor Carolyn Jones urged Luckett to do his job regardless of who he makes mad.

“Do your job,” Jones said. “We’ve talked about cleaning up. We want to clean up the whole city.

So do your job. We want to make the city better.”

The city has an ordinance on the books that allows the city to take action against properties which are deemed to be a public nuisance.

The law requires the city council to pass a resolution declaring the property a nuisance and notify the property owner by certified letter. If after 30 days the owner hasn’t corrected the violations or torn the property down, the city can then go to court and get a judgment allowing them to tear the property down.

The city can also put a lien on the property for any costs associated with mowing an overgrown lot or to tear it down.

Luckett says the problem they are running in to is that a lot of the properties are owned by out of state owners who either can’t be found or don’t care about the property.

Also, the city has to wait at least a year before they can tear down a property still owned by a bank for insurance purposes, which adds to the delay.

“If the bank owns the property and we go in and tear it down, then we will be in trouble,” Luckett said. Earle has numerous homes throughout the city which are either burned out, unoccupied, or overgrown and in a state of disrepair.

Luckett said residents continue to complain about the trucks in that subdivision.

“I’m being hammered over that,” Luckett said. “He’s been served two or three times even before I inherited it. They still haven’t done anything. I’ve got people rattling my ears about that situation. I just wanted to bring that up to you.”

Councilwoman Jimmie Barham said the EPA would definitely force him to clean it up.

“That’s where the EPA would have a field day,” Barham said.

Councilman Robert Malone said while it is risky bringing in the EPA, that may be the only move the city has left to show residents

they are serious about

cleaning up the town.

“We’ve got a lot of people with junkyards,” Malone said. “We’ve got to get through to them to move these things.”

Luckett cautioned that the EPA won’t just stop at that one property.

“They’ll have a field day there but there are other places in the city they will have a field day in too,” Luckett said. “He told me when they come in they are going to want to see the whole city. They will sweep the city and see what they see. Then it comes back to us and we will have to do what they say. I’m just asking if we are ready for this.”

Jones said she was OK with calling in the EPA.

“People are complaining we aren’t cleaning up and doing this or doing that,” Jones said. “That’s your ward. Do your job.”

By Mark Randall

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