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County’s toothless laws allow trashed Hammond Road home, others, to stand

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By Ben Carlson

It can huff and puff, but the fiscal court acknowledges that it can’t blow trashed houses down.
That realization surfaced during Monday night’s meeting of the Anderson County Fiscal Court. During his department head report, code enforcement officer Doug Ingram discussed a number of crumbling structures, including one on Hammond Road that made headlines several weeks ago. At that time, Fire Chief Mike Barnes declared the house a fire hazard, and gave its owners 10 days to have it torn down.
Ingram said Monday that not only is the house still standing, the owners have reneged on promises made to Barnes that it would at least be sealed.
Ingram said the front door and windows have been boarded up, but other entrances remain wide open.
Ingram said the owner, Steve Gay, told Barnes he wants to “revitalize” the property.
“That’s not possible,” said Ingram. “That building is garbage. It’s not repairable. The only thing that will save it is a dump truck and front-end loader.”
Ingram rattled off a number of other structures that he said should be torn down, but said the problem is that while he can issue citations, nothing in the county’s ordinances truly give him the ability for force the issue.
“We don’t have the grounds to make him do that unless we have condemnation authority,” he said about the house on Hammond Road.
Magistrate David Ruggles questioned whether the health department could declare the house a hazard.
“I believe they could,” said County Attorney Bobbi Jo Lewis, “but I would have to view the statutes thoroughly.”
Ingram said he has also performed enforcement duties on Jenny Lillard Road, where a property owner had stored a large amount of carnival equipment. Ingram said the case is in the court system, and that the judge has given the owner more time to get the equipment moved due to the rainy weather.
He said he has also visited the Trading Post in Stringtown, and worked to get the owner to move a number of vehicles parked there.
He also responded to complaints about properties on Highway 62, Nevins Road, Crooked Creek Road, Fox Creek and Claylick Road.
Judge-Executive John Wayne Conway said he has discussed the need to put teeth in the county ordinances with Lewis and Ingram, and intends to put the county in a position to force the owners of dilapidated structures to fix them up or tear them down.