AJ Giardina Investigates Eyesore Complaints In Hancock County

It took a fire to get an abandoned apartment complex in Gulfport finally boarded up. But there are buildings and homes all over South Mississippi that still look like they did August 29, 2005 -some may even look worse today.

AJ Giardina takes a closer look at an area that stretches from Bay St. Louis to Waveland, that neighbors say is blighted and in need of a major cleanup.

Kiln-Waveland Cutoff Road is a shortcut leading from Bay St. Louis to Waveland off Highway 603. Driving down the street, you'll notice new businesses popping up, but you'll also see a lot of debris. Residents say it still looks a lot like it did following Hurricane Katrina.

"This is a corridor to the city of Waveland and it should be cleaned up. It's part of the image of our city," business owner Roger Estopinal said.

Estopinal owns A&E Electrical Services & Parts on Kiln-Waveland Road. He says his customers get to see an abandoned car, old air conditioning units, cement blocks, a boat still attached to a trailer, old lawn mowers and piles of trash.

"Most people around here that are in business, like myself, with a lot of investment in it, we work for a living. That's what we depend on. We spend out money here and we'd like to see the area cleaned up, more attractive for our customers to come in," Estopinal said.

David Winslow and his family recently opened up the Bent Can Store. He believes if the area is cleaned up, more residents might return to Waveland.

"It's two, a little bit over two years after Katrina and they still got trash laying everywhere, you know. It's just unacceptable," Winslow said. "They want people to come back, but they need to clean up the trash too."

Waveland Building Official Otis Sharp told WLOX News the city has two full-time and two part-time investigators who check out eyesore complaints from local residents. He says most of the city is getting cleaned up, with a few exceptions.

"It's like who screams the loudest. They continue to call us on the phone and we continue to go back. And it's sad because we don't have enough personnel to go through everything. So when we get continuous complaints, we go check that area and work that area," Sharp said.

There are a number of buildings along Highway 90 in Hancock County and Waveland that should be cleaned up. The Brass Anchor Club on Highway 90 remains in shambles. The Purina building is boarded up, but trash and old tires are scattered throughout the property. Waveland officials say they have notified the owner something has to be done.

"We put them in violation of the property maintenance code that the city has adopted, and we'll send in the first registered letter saying that they are in violation," Sharp said. "We give them so many days to respond with us, and then we do it three times, and then we turn it over to the city attorney, Zach Butterworth."

Purina building owner George Day told WLOX News he wants to rebuild, but he's had trouble with a couple of contractors. He did say he intends to clean up his property.

Hancock County Board Attorney Ronnie Artigues says the the county is cleaning up FEMA eligible, residential properties first. He says that means the Brass Anchor Club on Highway 90 will sit a while, even though it's dangerous. Artigues says once residential sites are cleaned up, they'll tackle commercial properties.

Artigues added that funding is limited and that Hancock County officials are trying to find additional funding to help in the cleanup.

Be sure to watch Wednesday on WLOX News at 6pm, as AJ heads to Long Beach. He's received a number of complaints from residents there about the appearance of the downtown.