Board of Commissioners Vice Chairwoman Gwen Flowers-Taylor said she had traveled through parts of East Griffin and the mill village recently and found 22 structures either burned out or in various stages of disrepair. There were also houses that had yards full of garbage and extremely high grass. There were well-maintained, owner-occupied homes near them. Residents in those homes reported that methamphetamine addicts and prostitutes use the abandoned houses for illegal activities.
She said Community Development Director Chuck Taylor said the county’s substandard housing ordinance does not cover yards. She would like new rules requiring people to keep their yards clean.
County Attorney Jim Fortune said many of these houses are abandoned and the owners do not care what is done with them. He said the worst should be condemned and destroyed.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Eddie Goss said the banks, which own many of the houses, should take care of the property. He did not want a new ordinance and said existing ordinances would cover the situations. Board of Commissioners member Dave Phillips said the banks have written them off.
Flowers-Taylor said the land bank can purchase the houses on the courthouse steps if nobody else wants them. Fortune, however, warned that there are back taxes and liens on these houses and that nobody would be willing to buy them. Waiving the back taxes and liens on these properties would require the involvement of the school system and the state.
Flowers-Taylor said there is no money in the budget to demolish substandard houses.
“We’re going to have to budget some money to pay for demolitions,” she said.
She said the properties, even if sold for taxes, will not generate enough money to pay them off. She suggested the commissioners’ contingency fund could provide $20,000, enough to demolish four houses.
She does not want a new ordinance if an existing ordinance can apply. However, without citing people, nothing will get done, she said.
Fortune said the banks are overloaded with foreclosed properties and do not want anything to do with them.