Fulton continues with condemned house cleanup

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

Fulton aldermen are making slow but steady progress on the process of both cleaning and demolishing unkempt and abandoned houses throughout the city.

During their most recent meeting, aldermen discussed the status of several properties they consider to be in poor shape. Most of these houses are in disrepair and are believed to be abandoned.

The board is currently considering 10 properties for demolition, culled from an initial list of 15. The condemned properties include houses at the following addresses:

• 210 North Robbins Street

• 913 East Main Street

• 513 East Bankhead Street

• 313 East Wiygul Street

• 1008 South Clifton Street

• 1007 South Clifton Street

• 200 North Robbins Street

• 706 Martin Luther King Drive

• 313 East Kennedy Street

• 615 East Chilcoat Street

Regulations for condemning and clearing a property state that 30 days after a certified notice of condemnation has been sent to the property owner, the house can be torn down.

The owners of the homes on each of the aforementioned addresses have been contacted via certified letters on several occasions prior to the notification of condemnation being sent out. Many of these notices and letters have been returned to the city as undeliverable.

Many of the listed properties are currently in the middle of a grace period, after which, if owners have not made contact with city hall, the properties will be demolished.

Legally, several of the houses could have been demolished already. But aldermen have been somewhat reluctant to begin tearing down the structures, seemingly fearing any potential legal repercussions.

During their most recent meeting, the board was full of questions.

“Do we need to post a notice down there,” Alderman Mike Nanney asked the board’s attorney, Ray O’Neal.

O’Neal said a posted notice on the property itself isn’t required. After notices have been sent out, the city is only obligated to post the notice at city hall.

Still, O’Neal said it wouldn’t hurt to have notices on the properties themselves, legally necessary or not.

“We don’t have to post anything on the property, but we might want to as fair warning,” he said.

Nanney agreed.

“I think that’s a good idea,” he said.

Although O’Neal said the board was in their legal rights to tear down these properties at this point, he said to make sure the houses were well-photographed and their conditions detailed in the board’s minutes in case any questions were raised in the future.

“You need to put in our minutes exactly what’s wrong with the house,” O’Neal advised. “As long as you document what you’re doing, have posted legal notices and can back up our claims with pictures…”

The condemning and demolishing of abandoned structures and cleaning up disheveled houses has been an ongoing project of the board’s for years, part of an ongoing effort to make the city more attractive.

“It’s a very worthwhile project, but the process is very slow,” said Mayor Paul Walker, speaking of the city’s efforts. “You just can’t go out and start tearing houses down. You have to be very aware of the laws and the rights of the owners.”

Walker said that abandoned homes — the board’s primary focus at this time — are not only hard on the eyes, but could be dangerous as well.

“Several of these houses are in violation of health codes and might be dangerous places for kids if they get inside of them,” he said. “ There are definite safety issues there.”

The mayor asked residents to be patient as the board continues with its clean-up efforts.

“Our attorney is advising us to be very careful as we take on these things, but I believe it will be a great plus for the community once we get them taken care of,” Walker said.

adam.armour@journalinc.com