Code Enforcers Target Gulfport Eyesores - - The News for South Mississippi

Code Enforcers Target Gulfport Eyesores

Rundown houses and overgrown lots are eyesores, but they can also become public health hazards. Dilapidated buildings often attract unwanted visitors like vagrants or curious children. Old houses and derelict structures can also be fire hazards.

Finding such problem properties is easy, but getting them cleaned up can take time.

Code enforcement officials admit time is often their biggest enemy. Neighbors who file complaints against eyesores expect quick results. But the process of cleaning up such properties often takes months or even years. Patience and persistence are what code enforcers rely upon most.

"There are four houses here in which you can see. There's graffiti on them, the windows are broken out, they're structural failures," said Gulfport building official, Ron Jones as he surveyed a corner in North Gulfport.

The rundown houses at the corner of Jackson Street and Indiana Avenue are among several properties Gulfport's code enforcement department has targeted for clean up.

"Properties that have been identified by the building code services office that are vacant and dilapidated structures."

The four houses on that corner meet the description. Windows are shattered and wood frames are rotting. Signs warn the public about the hazard.

"That's the typical placard the building code services office uses to say that this building is unsafe and its use or occupancy is prohibited by the building official," said Jones.

It's not just the rundown buildings that are neighborhood eyesores. Vacant, dilapidated houses also tend to attract illegal dumping.

"The lot becomes even worse because people just begin to throw debris and it accumulates," said Jones.

Code enforcement officers understand that property clean up is not an overnight process. Doing a title search to track down the current owner can take several weeks.

Code enforcement officer, Nahoma Webb, must often be patient in her job.

"I've gotten used to it. I know. I can look at a piece of property and judge how long it's going to take me to get this property up to compliance," said Webb.

She says it does give her a good feeling when she sees the process through.

"Yes it does. A very good feeling."

A follow up to a fire on 18th Street got the attention of building officials. The burned out shell of a home remained for several weeks. Code enforcement went through the process to have the fire damaged structure demolished.

Eyesores are not limited to buildings. Junk cars and discarded tires litter a vacant lot on Nassau Street. The property was recently donated to Habitat for Humanity, which received a warning letter from code enforcement outlining the problems.

A burned out house across from Gulfport High School illustrates how long the process can sometimes take. Fire destroyed the home last March. The first complaint was filed in May. Nine months later, the eyesore remains.

Building officials have judged the house damaged beyond repair. The city council is expected to award a demolition contract later this month.

In some cases, rundown or neglected houses can be brought up to code.

"If a person has enough resources, it's possible that some structures could be salvaged. But then there's others that it gets to a point of no return where it should be totally demolished," said Jones.

Building officials believe the four houses in North Gulfport are owned by a woman who lives in Texas. A title search is underway to verify that information. The end result to the process now underway, should mean the rundown houses will be torn down.

"The lot will actually be cleaned up as well. Like you can see, there's a barrel over there. Things like that. Tires. The lot will be cleaned up," promised Jones.

By Steve Phillips

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