Demolition of house could cost city thousands

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 9, 2011

NATCHEZ — A condemned house on North Rankin Street could cost the city big bucks to destroy.

City Planner Bob Nix said at Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting a woman and her daughter were recently relocated from the house at 820 North Rankin St. to temporary housing with the help of the daughter’s classmates and Catholic Charities.

Nix said he asked for the house to be looked at by an environmental contractor, whose report was “pretty startling.”

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Nix said 50 cats were trapped in the house after the women were moved. More recently, inspectors estimated 30 additional cats remained inside.

Conditions are such that in order to enter the house a person must wear protective clothing and a breathing apparatus.

“You can’t breath the air without bacteriological agent infecting you,” Nix said.

All porous materials, including the walls, ceiling and floors must be decontaminated and properly disposed of according to code regulations, as well, Nix said.

“It’s a very dangerous situation,” Nix said.

Nix estimated the costs associated with the cleanup process to be between $14,000 and $17,000, since a Hazmat team will be needed.

Ward 5 Alderman Mark Fortenbery asked why the city had to burden the costs.

“The lady who owns (the house) was relocated by Catholic Charities; they don’t have a dime to do this,” Nix said.

The house was apparently passed down to a former resident through her family.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, who led Tuesday’s meeting in the absence of Mayor Jake Middleton, asked if the conditions posed a threat to neighbors.

Nix said the conditions could potentially become unsafe for neighbors, which is why it is important to deal with the house soon.

“We need to do it before it gets warm,” Nix said.

Nix said the inspector told him two heavy rains could possibly cause the house to collapse.

Arceneaux-Mathis said a neighbor lives very close by on one side of the house, which is on a corner, and Bishop Street is on the other side.

She said the board should take action while the contamination is at least contained within the house. Currently, siding on one side of the house is partially detached, she said.

Nix said he has taken estimates from two of only a handful of companies that do this type of work. The bids came in at the cost of $75,000 and $65,000.

Nix said his research, as well as opinions of representatives from the Mississippi Association of Code Enforcement, suggest the job can completed for a more affordable price.

Nix said he was going to re-bid the project with an aim to get more affordable bids.

Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard asked if receiving state funding for the structure was a possibly, to which Nix said no.

“The state does not do this; (state-level contacts) were very clear about that,” Nix said.

Nix said the matter is also too urgent to wait on the federal funding application process.

Arceneaux-Mathis said complaints about the situation and the cats at 820 North Rankin St. have been reported for “a long period of time.”

Nix said he did not know if there were others residences in Natchez with similar conditions.

Dillard shared concern that handling the matter could affect the normal procedures in dealing with future dilapidated structures.

Nix said he has an idea that would allow the city to earn back what they spent by fixing up the and selling some of the property. It could, however, take a long time to be reimbursed, he said.

He also said he would like to consider implementing a system in which an account is opened to collect reimbursements from residents who are forced to pay the city to demolish their delinquent properties. The monies could help fund projects such as the one at North Rankin Street.

In other news from Tuesday’s meeting:

4 City Clerk Donnie Holloway reported that no further monies have been borrowed using the city’s approved tax-anticipation loan.

The city has borrowed $375,000 in tax-anticipation loans so far this fiscal year. The board preapproved up to $650,000 in tax-anticipation loans this summer.

Holloway said the city should be able to pay off the $375,000 it borrowed next week.

Dillard commended Holloway’s office for being able to pay back the loan before its due date on March 15.

“To hear that is really good news,” Dillard said.

4 Ward 4 Alderman Tony Fields made a motion to arrange a meeting with the City Attorney Everett Sanders and former city attorney Walter Brown to discuss ownership and management issues with the Brumfield Apartments, Oak Towers Apartments and Carpenter II Apartments.

Former managers of the apartments, Stafford Management Industry, recently slipped letters under residents’ doors and in the mayor’s mailbox saying they will no longer be running the building starting Feb. 1.

The Brumfield Apartments were reportedly left in poor condition.

Arceneaux-Mathis said the formerly unused city-owned properties were converted into apartment complexes years ago as part of the Large Unused Municipal Properties, or LUMPS, program.

She said Brown can provide the information and history they need to make decisions regarding the apartments.