Hancock County Family Buying State Property To Clean Up Neighborhood Eyesore

Just who is responsible for cleaning up Katrina debris off of property owned by the State of Mississippi? That's the question a Hancock County family would like answered.

Alfred and Donna Harris live right next door to a lot the state owns. And after almost ten months, the land is still littered with storm debris.

"It's an eyesore for one, a health hazard. It's just deplorable it needs to be taken care of by somebody," Donna Harris said.

The pile of debris the Harris Family is forced to look at is the remnant of a dilapidated house that Hurricane Katrina leveled.

"There are rats and other kinds of wild animals living in it. I'm concerned because I have grand kids. I know there are snakes and all. This is an eyesore. Nobody wants to live next to something like this," Harris said.

"The state obtained the property through a tax sale in 1988," Hancock County Tax Collector Jimmy Ladner said. "Currently, the state has an offer on the property that they are going to accept. I spoke to the Secretary of State's office today and what they've said is they're going to accept that offer. Now once that paper work is processed, the person that's made the offer, it will become their responsibility to clean the property."

Ironically, the Harris Family made that offer to purchase the property. They say they've made three offers on the land over the past 10 years, but were told by the Secretary of State's office the land was worth more than they were willing to pay.

"So it's like, 'Lets get this person off of our back. Let her have the property at what she offered us and let her worry about getting it cleaned up," Harris said.

"It's a blighted piece of property. So the state recognizes the fact that they're going to have to spend money to clean it. That's why the people can get the property at 25 percent of what it's actually worth," Ladner said.

You might think the problem of Katrina debris sitting on state owned property is widespread in Hancock County, but Tax Assessor Jimmy Ladner says it's not. He says property with structures on them are usually snatched up by the public.

by Al Showers