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City of Valley condemns house to clean it

VALLEY — On Tuesday morning, workmen from the City of Valley’s Public Works Department carried four truckloads of debris from the backyard of a home off 12th Avenue in the Todd Addition neighborhood. The piles of trash had been hoarded for years by a woman who had recently vacated the house following a drug-related arrest.

The backyard wasn’t the only place to have piles of debris. According to the city workers, hoarding had taken place inside the house as well.

“It’s full of junk, too,” said Code Enforcement officer Reid Riley,

“We have complained about this for years,” said nearby resident Clyde Jennings. “We have called and reported this lots of times. We’re glad they are finally doing something about it.”

The city was legally able to do this following a condemnation action that was approved Monday evening by the city council.  A resolution approved by the council found the property to be “a public nuisance injurious to health, morals, comfort and welfare of the community.”

The house is owned by Deborah W. Taunton and has a mortgage though the Bank of America, Charlotte, N.C. Until very recently, Mrs. Taunton’s daughter, Staci, had lived in the house. The younger Taunton was charged in a drug raid that took place at the house several weeks ago. Staci is now staying with her mom. While the workmen were loading piles of trash onto the truck, she shouted to them from the backyard of the house next door.

Reid Riley told the work crew to ignore her comments and to not be drawn into a verbal altercation.

The metal items in the backyard were separated from the other debris that was hauled away. The metal items have some salvage value and were taken to Phil Teague’s business in Lanett. Everything else was taken to the Chambers County landfill.

“What we get from the metal will be subtracted from their bill,” Riley said.

When the council approves an abatement, the city can file a lien on the property to recover its costs. This can cover labor, equipment cost, landfill fees, attorney’s fees and the cost of landscaping, if that needs to be done.

Following the council’s approval of the abatement, Mayor Leonard Riley told Public Works Director Patrick Bolt that he and his crew could get to work on cleaning up the site bright and early the next morning. They were there at 8 a.m.

According to state law, once a code enforcement officer determines that a property is a public nuisance, the owner is notified of this and has 45 days to do something about it. They can file a written request to appear before the council to discuss the matter. If the 45-day period passes with no response from the owner, the city can take action to abate the property. They can then take on the task of cleaning it up and then filing a lien on the property in order to recoup its costs.

The house located at 2506 12th Ave. is in good condition and won’t be torn down. The purpose of the civil action was to remove the piles of debris inside the house and on the grounds.

In other action on Monday, the council approved a consent agenda with authorization to impose liens on seven more properties in the city. A public hearing will take place prior to the next council meeting on Monday, Jan. 22, to confirm the cost of demolition for dilapidated properties located at 203 Spring Street, 1018 Hillsdale Road, 5707 16th Avenue, 1808 45th Street and for a location on 51st Street.

Planning and Development Director Travis Carter told the council that 41 dilapidated structures were removed in the city in 2017.

“Some were done by the city and some by the property owners,” he said.