Inspector wants dilapidated house work given to planners

Published 7:40 pm Saturday, April 28, 2007

NATCHEZ — If the city inspector has his way, he won’t be taking care of dilapidated houses for long.

City Building Official Paul Dawes wants to move the responsibility of dilapidated houses to the planning department.

Historically, the role of evaluating and presenting structures to be demolished rested with the code enforcement officers, Dawes said.

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“What we’ve got is split duties of the same code,” Dawes said. “It’s in the same code with abandoned vehicles and overgrown grass. It should be handled by the code enforcement officers, and they’re in the planning department.”

City Planner Dennis Story said to his knowledge, his department had never handled the issue of dilapidated houses.

“For us to go in and say, this house needs to be torn down, my code enforcement officers don’t have training in that area,” Story said. “Planning’s role is helping build up the city rather than tear buildings down.”

City Clerk Donnie Holloway said the duty has shifted between the two offices over the years.

Currently, Dawes’ office evaluates structures, decides if they’re dilapidated and presents them to the board of aldermen. Then, Dawes sends the owners letters asking them to fix the structure or the city will have it torn down.

It’s a lot of work on top of his already busy schedule, Dawes said. For one thing, there are a number of new buildings being constructed around town.

“Within the past two years, the number of permits and evaluations has increased dramatically,” Dawes said. “The workload for the inspection department has increased proportionately. We’ve got an immense amount of work going on.”

Dawes asked the board of aldermen at their last meeting to move the responsibility of dilapidated houses to the planning department.

The board said it would table the decision and discuss the issue at Tuesday’s work session.

Although Story said his office didn’t have the expertise to make a decision as to whether a structure should be torn down, he said it was an important topic to tackle.

“There are a lot of building that need to be torn down,” Story said. “There is definitely a need for code enforcement in that area.”