McComb selectmen examined the speed and process of getting decrepit houses demolished at Tuesday night’s work session.
City Administrator Kelvin Butler presented a list of 10 houses that he said had been through a court review and were ready to be considered in a public hearing once the property owners are notified by letter. He suggested a hearing date of July 12.
James Harness, speaking for the zoning and inspection department, presented a copy of the city’s demolition ordinance, including the steps required to be followed before a demolition can take place, to board members, some of whom had been questioning why the process takes so long.
Stephen Simmons, the department’s code compliance officer, said some properties can take longer than others because some are brought directly to the board for action, and some are reviewed by City Judge Brandon Frazier.
That puzzled Selectman Devante Johnson.
“The judge says that’s not his jurisdiction,” Johnson said. “Why are taking these houses to court? The power to act rests with this body. The ordinance doesn’t say anything about taking these houses to court.”
Harness and Simmons said getting a property condemned involves court action, and Simmons added that a little legal oversight could help the city avoid the liability of tearing down a home it shouldn’t.
Johnson continued to ask why zoning and inspection staff would take properties to court when the city ordinance does not require that.
Simmons said he coud stop involving the judge and bring properties of concern directly to the board.
Mayor Quordiniah Lockley noted that the process on some properties gets extended repeatedly because new owners buy the properties, and the process must then start all over.
Simmons said one house has been on the demolition list for three years, and been approved for demolition for two years, but had not been touched since the city ran out of demolition money that year and the department was told to cease demolitions.
The city has demolished three houses this year out of the $45,000 budget for that purpose, using about $8,000 and leaving $37,000 for demolitions in the remainder of the fiscal year that end Sept. 30.
Selectman Ronnie Brock requested that the board add a house on St. Augustine Avenue to the demolition list, and asked that Frazier be present at Tuesday’s board meeting to clarify his role, if any, in building demolition in the city.
Butler did not respond to a message seeking the list of properties.
In another building matter, Selectman Shawn Williams suggested the city seek bids on building one park restroom facility, after the most recent bids for two restroom facilities garnered a low bid of $158,000, or $79,000 each.
The request for bids will mark the third time the city has tried to build restroom facilities in its parks. The first attempt, bid out at $23,000 to Able Construction of Magnolia, was deemed inadequate and unusable before the building was completed.
Brock and Johnson said that attempt by Able had been demolished, and asked how that was done and who authorized it.
Public Works Director Alice Barnes said street department employees pushed the building down with a backhoe, and said she thought the board had directed them to do so.
Brock and Johnson said they did not recall any such instruction.
Also related to buildings and inspections, Butler said he would look through the applications submitted for director of the zoning, inspection and planning department and bring another recommendation to the board Tuesday.
Butler recommended Harness at the May 28 meeting, but no one seconded Williams’s motion to promote him to the director’s position from fire prevention officer.
Johnson later at that meeting suggested promoting Henry Green, the residential rental property inspector, to director, but that also failed to advance.
In addition to the zoning director, Butler said he had interviewed three candidates for recreation director and would make a recommendation on that position Tuesday.