Officials encourage residents to tidy up
By By Adam Prestridge
It's time for the residents of Atmore to clean up their act.
Atmore mayor Howard Shell believes, with the city on the brink of economic prosperity, the time for homeowners to take ownership in their property is now.
"We're trying to figure a way to get community awareness," Shell said. "All the statements and things that we have been putting in the papers and in the magazines trying to encourage people to clean up is for a real reason; it's to make our town more attractive and appealing to all of the possibilities that we've got in front of us that we feel like are coming down the road in the next few months."
Shell knows it will be a challenge to clean up areas of the town and wants residents to understand that the clean up effort won't happen overnight.
"In order to do that we've got to continue to encourage people that this is going to be a long-term situation," Shell said. "We've got to do a 180-degree change in the way that we have been doing things in the past about trying to keep our streets cleaned up and residential areas clean, grass cut and businesses taking pride and interest in their businesses. We would like to encourage business owners to take a step out onto the sidewalks and keep those cleaned up too."
With economic growth in Atmore such as Rivercane at Interstate 65, Shell said educating the people of Atmore will be a huge factor. The perception of the town can and will attract new businesses to the area, but help from residents is needed.
"I'd like for us to educate the people and let them know that we are trying to do what we can because we want people that come through Atmore to say, 'My, what a nice, neat, clean town the City of Atmore is.' And with all that we have going on with Rivercane, we are having a lot of people coming into our city that we did not have coming into it six months ago looking at the prospects of locating their businesses in Atmore. Rivercane is bringing a tremendous amount of people to town and they don't always stop there, they want to come to town to see what we've done down here. They look at this and wonder if it's going to be a continuation of what we have going in town and we want them to know that we're doing everything that we can to join hands with the entire community in moving our city forward."
Shell expressed his appreciation for residents and organizations such as the Leadership Atmore Class of 2006's Atmore's Picking Up campaign that have taken the incentive to clean up Atmore.
"We are appealing to the residents to join with us and other groups that have taken the initiative," Shell said. "We have some clubs and other groups that have taken the initiative to clean up," Shell said.
In an effort to clean up Atmore, the city council OK'd a lien on a house on Carver Avenue several weeks ago. Demolition crews began tearing down the house and cleaning up the property Saturday.
Atmore building inspector Allen Nix said the project on Carver Avenue is a step in the right direction.
"It's super, it's going to make our job 10 times easier," Nix said. "The system we used when we go through the city council is so much faster, but it costs the city money."
Shell said ridding the city of eyesores such as the Carver home has been a long time coming.
"For us to take action on buildings that need to have major renovations or maybe have to be removed takes time for us to go through the legal procedures that we are required to do, but some of those are beginning to take effect," Shell said.
Nix said in order for homes or property to be condemned by the city, attorney Ed Hines has to first do a title search and give Nix the name of the owner in order for him to send them a certified letter.
"The problem is a lot of the people who own property in Atmore that is in need of repair or demolition live out of town," Nix said.
The owner has 45 days to reply to the letter or 30 days to appeal. If the owner does not respond, the city has the right to condemn the property.
If an owner decides to sell the property following the city's demolition and/or improvements, the owner must satisfy the lien before they can transfer the properties title. All expenses of clean up sites are incurred by the city and must be kept up including keeping the grass cut and picking up trash.
Nix said the clean up efforts will continue for the inspections department throughout the next several months.
"I expect to take to the city council one or two a month for their approval one way or another," Nix said.
Demolition on the old Atmore Door and Window building on the corner of Ridgeley and Martin Luther King Drive will begin Friday.
"I met with them last week, gave them their options and they made their decision," Nix said. "They called us today (Tuesday) and decided to take the building down, clean it up and put the property up for sale. It's a high-profile place and it took me three years to get it down. This new procedure we have going with the city council rather than the city court has brought everything to a head. They had to make a decision or we were going to make the decision for them and put a lean on their property."
Since beginning work with the city 10 years ago, Nix said his department has cleaned up 25-30 crippled properties.