Community Court Orders House Demolished

A house with no roof, no electricity and no hot water was the focus of the first case before Community Court in Biloxi Tuesday.

You'll recall, Community Court was set up by the City to help clean up neighborhoods and handle code enforcement complaints.

The first case went to trial Tuesday morning.

It involves property that's quite familiar to city code enforcement officers.

City building inspectors say a fire last December heavily damaged the home, making it unsafe and unlivable. But the homeowner and several of his friends continued to stay there.

When a code enforcement officer ordered the house vacated in early January, the homeowner refused.

That's how the case ended up in court.

"In my opinion, this open and accessible structure is a safety hazard. A public safety hazard and a threat to life and limb."

Code enforcement officer Hank Rogers testified the case involves public safety. He described the conditions of this home at 510 Howard Avenue.

No hot water, no electricity and a burned out roof.

Homeowner, Roland Gareau, came to court with his friend to try and save his house.

"According to our city ordinance, you can't live in a structure that is burned or unsafe or doesn't meet the minimum standard housing code. The occupant of the property was asked to leave the premises. He refused to do so and we had no alternative but to issue a citation," said Rogers.

Thomas McFadden says the defendant offered him a place to stay when he was down on his luck. In his opinion, the home could be renovated. It's a feeling shared by the owner.

"What is moral is not always legal. And what is legal is not always moral. I'm a moral man. I looked out for my fellow man. That's what God said to do," said homeowner, Roland Gareau.

Mr. Gareau offered to tear down the structure himself, if the court would let him live in the rear section of the home which was undamaged by the fire. The court turned down that request, saying not only is the home unsafe, but such a demolition project would also be unsafe.

After hearing the arguments, Judge Dean Wilson ordered Gareau to vacate the house, and gave the city the go ahead to tear it down.