By NATHAN GREGORY
The Starkville Board of Aldermen authorized city staff to begin demolition and cleanup of five properties deemed to be a menace to the community’s public health and safety this week during its recess meeting.
An initial list of eight properties on the slate to be demolished was reduced down to five after two property owners came to the board asking for more time and were granted one-year extensions to renovate their buildings. Another property owner asked the board and received a 30-day extension through Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill.
The list included 410 South Jackson St., 611 Vine St., 810 South Jackson St. 305 Louisville St., 205 Ware St., 729 Whitfield St., a blue house located north of 333 Long St. and the site of the former Jr. Food Mart on the corner of North Jackson and Critz streets.
Owners of the structures at 410 South Jackson St. and 305 Louisville St. were granted the one-year extensions, while the owner of the building that housed the Jr. Food Mart was given 30 days to bring the property back to code.
Spruill said the owner of the latter property, Toya Ivy Bailey, asked her to petition the board for the 30-day extension because she was in the process of tearing down the building.
The one-year extensions were granted on the condition that the owners provide quarterly updates so city staff can track progress on reclaiming the structures.
The city’s code enforcement division directed City Attorney Chris Latimer to conduct title searches of each property last February and mailed written notices to the property owners informing them of their code violations in December. Notices were published Feb. 1 of this year.
Any costs the city incurs for demolishing properties are passed on to the owners in the form of a tax lien, according to Spruill.
“We would document the value of that service and then we put a lien on the property. That’s part of (Latimer’s) title search and that’s part of what (city) statute allows,” Spruill said during the recess meeting.
Spruill said there was still a window of opportunity for owners of the other five properties to contact city staff and ask for extensions.
“We’re still in the mode of giving people an opportunity to do what needs to be done. But this allows us, if it drags out ... to go ahead and take care of it,” she said.
Sammie O. Harris, owner of the structure on 305 Louisville Street, said he bought the property in 1972 and raised five children in the house there before moving to another location in town. He said when they became college age, he had the option of paying for their education or paying to renovate the house.
“When you spend the money on children like that, sometimes you neglect other things that should be done, and I did,” he said.
He added that he had experience in construction and had renovated other houses and said he would do the same with his.
Patrick Nordin, who spoke on behalf of the owners of the 410 South Jackson St. structure, said he and his wife were exploring options on completely rehabilitating that house. The owners sent the city’s code enforcement department in response to the notice they received and said they met with someone who was drawing a house plan and another person who would assist with foundation repairs and drainage improvements.
“Our intention is to bring the house not just up to code but to its glory,” Nordin told the board of aldermen. “That’s one of the oldest houses in Starkville, and we would like … to be able to do the work we need to do on the front end to make it right.”