January 16, 2015 at 5:29 AM CST - Updated July 22 at 1:55 AM
BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX)
More than nine years after Hurricane Katrina, Bay St. Louis leaders say they have finally gotten the city's blighted property problem under control.
They say a list of more than 500 derelict properties identified in the city just three years ago has been reduced by nearly 90 percent. City leaders say they are now working to cut that number down to zero.
The long list of blighted properties in Bay St. Louis has been narrowed to about 50. Some of them still look like they did the day after Hurricane Katrina blew through town with debris littering the ground and those familiar numbers that marked every home.
"A lot of it was attributed to people who just abandoned properties. There were people who left in the days and weeks after Katrina that really didn't have any options to repair. They just had to walk away," said Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame.
The grass in the front yard of one of the properties hasn't been cut for years. Some of the weeds stand more than 20 feet tall.
"A lot of the ones that are out there now that we're still dealing with is really the second time we've dealt with some of the properties. We had some properties that were not in the state that would have been considered derelict, but over the last four or five years, through continued neglect, some of them are to the point of condemnable now and they weren't then," explained Fillingame.
He says Katrina damaged homes in the city are now at a manageable level. Remaining pilings and concrete slabs are the bigger problem.
"The hardest part is those we just haven't been able to make contact with," said administrative assistant Jerry Beaugez.
He says most people take care of the problem when contacted by the city. Others required court action with the city picking up the tab for demolition work, then it's added to the property owner's tax bill.
'"For the neighborhood's sake and the community's sake the city stepped in and actually cleaned up some of those properties ourselves, but those days are behind us, I think," said Fillingame.
Residents with plans to rebuild can keep slabs and pilings in place as long as the property is maintained.