Demolition of Natchez dilapidated houses begin

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 25, 2008

NATCHEZ — The demolition of four dilapidated homes has begun, but not without a hitch.

When contractor Derrick Batteste arrived on Irving Lane early Nov. 15 to demolish houses No. 14 and 16, he was stopped.

The daughter of the woman who owns No. 16 said she would not allow him to demolish the house.

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“(She) was saying that they were still paying taxes on the house and that the house was boarded up and they were keeping the grass cut,” Batteste said.

So he put the project off while the woman tried to keep her house from being demolished.

Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, whose ward is where the house is, said she was approached by the woman.

“I told her I didn’t know what we would be able to do because we had been working on this project almost six years,” she said.

Mathis said when City Attorney Everett Sanders became the city attorney, the city restarted demolition proceedings to make sure an paperwork hadn’t expired.

“It’s a timing mechanism,” she said.

Mathis said the woman tried to tell her that the house was being taken care of, too.

“I said, ‘I know you haven’t been,’” Mathis said, due to the amount of phone calls she’s been getting over time about the abandoned house.

“They were calling about snakes and rats and stuff running out of those properties,” she said.

But, Mathis said she would give the woman an opportunity to fight for the house.

“I told her I didn’t have the authority to stop anything,” she said.

But Mathis said she spoke with City Clerk Donnie Holloway and Building Inspector Paul Dawes to see what the process is.

It was decided that the woman would get a chance to speak her case at the board of aldermen meeting today.

The neighbors would have been notified and been able to voice any opposition.

“They have a side, too,” she said.

Mathis said if the house could be fixed up — which is what the woman claimed she would do — and be put back on the tax rolls, the city would be happy to oblige.

However, the house was still knocked down by Batteste on Saturday.

“When I talked to (the inspector) he said go ahead and tear it down,” he said.

Dawes said the owner had plenty of time to protest the demolition.

“They waited to the last 11th hour minute to try to intercept this thing,” he said.

The other two houses that have been cleared for demolition are 14 Zoa St. and 727 Martin Luther King Jr. St.

Batteste said he can only work this job on the weekends but it should probably only take him two more weeks to complete the demolition.