Complaints prompt review of abatements

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Andalusia City Council members said Tuesday they have been under heat recently about abandoned commercial buildings.

“We have some buildings with the roof falling in or in the sidewalk,” Councilman Kennith Mount said. “What do we have to do to get something done?”

Most times when the council meets, it abates properties for violations of the weed ordinance. It did so again Tuesday, abating nine properties.

But Mayor Earl Johnson said the Code of Alabama has different guidelines for abating commercial property.

The city’s designated inspector must write a letter to the property owner, give the property owner time to respond, then have it examined by a structural engineer, Johnson explained.

“If it creates a public danger, we can deal with that right away,” Johnson said.

“If you want to do away with it all together, you need a structural engineer to declare it dangerous or unsound. Then if the property owner doesn’t clean it up, we have to file a lawsuit in circuit court. It is a long, drawn-out affair,” he said.

And also a process he hopes not to have to use.

“We’ve talked about it often in these meetings,” the mayor said. “It’s hard to get that out to the people. There are a lot of other factors we have to factor in to actions we take. There are other negotiations going on. It’s a tough rabbit to catch without killing the rabbit.”

However, he said, the city has set a meeting with an attorney from a Birmingham firm who specializes in these issues.

“We have asked him to come here, and basically lay out what we are empowered under present law to do.”

The process for dealing with noxious weeds and grasses in residential areas has been simplified in recent years, Johnson said, allowing the council to act swiftly.

In other business, the council agreed to buy two garbage trucks for the public works department. The trucks, which are $145,000 each, will be leased for a period of three years.

The city currently has four trucks, three of which will be sold as surplus property. The oldest of those trucks is more than 30 years old.