Homeowner wants more time before Biloxi tears down house

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A Biloxi homeowner says he can't understand why the city plans to tear down the century old house he says was heavily damaged in Katrina. 68-year-old Albert Pruett says he's been notified that his house on Main Street will be demolished soon. Biloxi Code officials say the house is structurally unsound.

This weekend, Pruett cleared out his belongings. On moving day, not everything could fit on the back of Pruett's pickup truck.

"Trying to determine what we can salvage, and what we'll have to absolutely throw away," Pruett says.

Pruett bought the 108-year-old house as a fixer upper. He says his wife's illness and Hurricane Katrina forced the family to move to Mobile and left neither the time or the money to continue working on house.

"There's absolutely no way that I can do it quickly," Pruett says. "This is going to be a long term project. It was a 10 year project in my mind and in my plans when I first started, and that was before Katrina."

Biloxi city officials say the house is public hazard in danger of caving in. The city says the foundation alone will take $40,000 to fix.

Pruett says, "That's totally untrue. This house is tongue and groove inside. Completely. The storm didn't budge it. It won't budge it. This house will be here another 100, 150 years if they allow me to do the work that I need to do."

Pruett says he didn't have insurance and didn't know about the homeowners' grant until it was too late. He says he finally found organizations willing to help but now he thinks he's out of time.

"They're taking everything that I've invested in this place and going to push it into a pile," Pruett says. "The city of Biloxi is not going to be no better off for a vacant lot here."

After the house is torn down, Pruett will have to pay the demolition costs before he can pay his property taxes.

"I will lose the property. I will. Because this is a large house and the fees are going to be staggering when they're finished with it," Pruett says.

Biloxi Community Development Director Jerry Creel says the city notified Albert Pruett more than a year ago about problems with the house.

Creel says, "We're in a position where he is not offering us any solution. We don't want to take it down, but we can't leave it there with the porch hanging and everything else."