Officials: Property owners clean up

Published 1:46 pm Wednesday, August 24, 2005

By By Adam Prestridge
If you don't keep your property clean in the City of Atmore the courts will do it for you.
Atmore Code Enforcement Official Allen Nix announced during Monday afternoon's city council meeting that several properties that have been deemed serious problems have been addressed.
"Everything has been turned over to the court system and they are in the process," he said.
Nix estimated that there are 25-30 "serious problem" properties within the city limits. Atmore Mayor Howard Shell said that the courts may need to be contacted in hopes of getting a quicker judgment in hopes of getting the properties clean up quicker.
"What we need to do is talk to the judge again and see where they are because there are certainly a number of cases that as soon as they get it through the system condemnation needs to take place," Shell said. "It's gotten past of being just an eyesore, they are now health and safety hazards in some areas. We need to encourage the court to move as expeditiously as they possibly can to help us clean up some of these areas."
If legal action is taken on a property owner it costs the city time and money, which can easily be saved if the proper clean up procedures are made.
"We have several properties that are in a state of disrepair and are beginning to be a health and safety issue," Shell reiterated. "Rather than us taking them to court we strongly encourage them to initiate repairs to prevent the city from having to take them through the court system. It's a burden on everybody to have to that."
The city takes several steps to prevent legal actions such as writing the property owner a letter; if a property owner is unable to be located, city officials attempt to locate them; certified letters are sent; one-on-one contact is made and follow-up letters are sent if the property owner is located.
"There are numerous communications prior to putting it in the court system in encouraging the property owner to take action to clean up their property," Shell said.
Shell added that the city gives the property owners "ample" time to clean up their mess.
"Our problem is that we have some absentee property owners that I feel like the courts had within their jurisdiction to be able to help us to get to the point where the property could be cleaned up," Shell said.
Some of the properties have yet to be cleaned up and judgment from the courts is needed before the city can perform any clean up efforts on the property.
"The property has got to go through the court and whatever we do, we have to have a court judgment allowing the city to go in and do it," Shell said. "Once we do it, the city has to put a lien against the property for cost incurred in what it cost the city to clean it up. If we have to hire a contractor or somebody to go out there and tear it down then the dollar amount is going to have be calculated and charged back to the property owner and goes on their court records and the property can not be sold until the lien is satisfied."
Shell encourages anyone who has been contacted regarding the condition of their property or knows their property needs attention to go ahead and clean up before legal action is taken.

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