Jackson County cracks down on abandoned property

By Sylvia Hall – bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Jackson County officials say up to 16 abandoned homes pose a threat to the public county-wide.  That's why they're declaring them public nuisances, and taking the steps to clean them up at the owners' expense.

Lisa Vollmer said one abandoned, overgrown lot close to her home in the Pinehurst community has become a notorious eyesore in the community.

"This property has been abandoned since Katrina, and it has turned into what we call the mold house," Vollmer said.  "You can look through the windows, six months, a year after Katrina, and it just icicles with mold."

The property has a thick coating of tall grass, which in some places is shoulder high. The home also has windows knocked out.  Vollmer is disgusted and unnerved by its presence in the community she and her neighbors work so hard to maintain.

"The last thing you want is it to become a drug house or a teen hangout," Vollmer said.  "And most importantly for all the people in the neighborhood, you don't want your property to devalue when you have this eyesore just sitting away from your own home."

Jackson County Supervisor John McKay (R-District 5) shares her frustration.

"Why the people won't do it, I don't know," McKay said.  "They just walked off and left them in many cases and left them to the mortgage companies or whatever. They may be in NYC or Chicago or whatever, and that presents the problem."

He said the Pinehurst home and up to 15 others in the county are more than eyesores.

"It shows you don't care about your neighbors, you don't care about your community, and you obviously don't care about that piece of property," McKay said.

McKay said the county has those homes on a list of houses to declare public nuisances, or menaces to public health.  He said the unkempt homes could pose unseen dangers to communities, especially children.

"You could have snakes, rats, all different kinds," McKay said. "Broken bottles, nails, all different types of hazards in this type of thing.

McKay pointed out that children were playing in the street, just yards away from one of the properties.

McKay said if owners won't clean them up, the county will. They plan on taking all the appropriate measures to legally clean up, or knock down, all the abandoned, menacing properties they can.

"Get them cleaned up or we're going to clean them up for you and we're going to apply that cost to your property taxes," McKay said.  "One way or another they're going to have to get cleaned up."

McKay said the cleanup process can take a while, because the county must go through several bureaucratic steps to have clearance to clean up.  He said the process has already begun for many homes on the list.

McKay urges anyone who has a question about a neglected property to contact him or their county representative.  He said he'd be happy to update people on the status of derelict properties near them.  Also, if the county has overlooked one, he would like to add it to the list.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.