Aldermen order five more condemned houses torn down

Efforts to rid the city of houses that have been abandoned, present health hazards or are generally unfit for human use are continuing as New Albany aldermen voted to demolish five more structures and set another five for public hearings next month.

“There was not so much controversy,” Mayor Tim Kent said, at least partly because residents have become more familiar with the process and aldermen’s resolution toward continuing the cleanup.

Code enforcement officer Baron Baker reported on one case Tuesday that involved property maintenance only, and five others that had been condemned and were up for consideration to be demolished.

The maintenance issue related to 305 Oak Street. Baker had cited the property as being unmowed and with scrap piles in the yard. Tuesday, Baker said he had finally been able to talk with owner Timothy Hall, who had been difficult to contact because he works a night shift.

“He’s agreed to work with us,” Baker said. He added that Hall has already mowed the yard and has begun moving the scrap and cleaning his carport. Baker still asked the board for an order giving Hall 15 days to complete the cleanup. “I think he will do it but this will help make sure,” Baker said.

Aldermen voted unanimously to give Hall the 15 days but also reserved the right of the city to go on the property and do the work themselves, if necessary, after 15 days.

The first condemnation-related hearing was for 515 Clark Street. Mayor Kent told aldermen that the house, and also the house at 621 Third St., also set for a hearing, are owned by Harry Vinson. Kent said Vinson could not be present but agreed they need to be torn down. Patty Young was listed as a co-owner.

Baker said both are unoccupied and unfit for human use and aldermen voted unanimously to give the owner 30 days to demolish them. Otherwise, the city will see that they are torn down and bill the owner.

The next house set for a hearing was at 426 North Street. Betty Hamblin was listed as owner. Baker said it had been unoccupied for some time, was rotten, the roof was partially caved in and it was essentially abandoned.

Baker said he had not heard from the owner and no interested party was present at the hearing so aldermen voted to give the owner 30 days to demolish the house or the task would be done by the city.

The fourth house was at 500 North St. Baker said the owners listed are Collins Graham and Pat Rakestraw. Baker said the property tax had not been paid on the location in 2011 or 2012 and Donny Hamblin and Angel Investments had made tentative purchases at tax sales. Baker described the property as burned out, with broken windows and being unfit for use.

Collins Graham was present and told the board that part of the reason for the disrepair is that a legal dispute has been going on about two years concerning which of the two listed owners will end up with the house. Graham said he hoped the dispute would be resolved in the next couple of months but could not guarantee it and did not want to speculate on the outcome. He added that he had at least been keeping the yard maintained, which Baker confirmed, and that he intended to fix up the house if he were able to get it.

Board attorney Regan Russell noted that the litigation could last much longer and the house still not be feasibly repairable. He offered the possibility of delaying action for one month to give him time to look into the case but Ward One Alderman Jeff Olson said more than enough time had passed and moved to order demolition. The measure passed unanimously with the board giving the owners 30 days to get rid of the house.

The last hearing was for 603 First Street. Baker said the owner was listed as Samuel Hickman, who is deceased, so he has had to send many letters to potential heirs. No one was present to speak for the possible owners, however, and Baker said this house, much like others, had been unoccupied, had part of the roof missing, electrical and other problems. Two other potential owners were persons who had paid taxes on the property at tax sales.

Aldermen voted, as in the other hearings, to have owners tear it down within 30 days or the city would have it done.

After the public hearings, Baker gave aldermen a list of addresses to set for condemnation hearings at the Oct. 7 city board meeting.

They are 503 Booker St., 512 Booker St., 525 Church St., 509 Hopper St. and 511 Hopper St. Aldermen voted to set them all for hearings. Baker noted that this group is actually all within about a one-block area.

Finally, Baker gave a brief update on other previous condemnation hearings.

He said the house at 637 Ridgeland Circle has been torn down and cleaned and the house at 1093 Bratton Road should be gone this week.