Jones County Code Enforcement Officer Tiffany Wharton said the demolition took place Feb. 1 and 3. One of the houses was located on Flora Wyche and the other two were on Alton Road. All three of the buildings were in the southern portion of Jones County.
The process for the demolition of the buildings is not fast. Wharton said the Abandoned and Dilapidated Housing ordinance was adopted in 2006, and she came before the Jones County Board of Commissioners in 2008 with a list of 10 properties that needed to be brought into compliance or torn down.
Wharton said the ordinance is complaint-driven. In 2009 the commissioners voted to allow the complaints to be anonymous, and the officer said that change was a good one.
“Complaints can be made through me or the planning and zoning office,” Wharton said. She explained the planning and zoning office does the first inspection, and then the condemned property is turned over to her for enforcement of the ordinance.
Wharton said she contacts the owner, who has the choice of bringing the property into compliance or having it torn down by the county. She said, once notified of a verified violation of the ordinance, the owner has 45 days to contact her office with a plan of action.
The officer said, as long as the property owner is working to bring the building into compliance, she is willing to work with them.
“This ordinance is not all about the property being pretty but safe and secure. It was written with the safety of children in mind,” she said.
Wharton said neighbors of the Flora Wyche and Alton Road properties were excited to see the demolition trucks arrive. She said the buildings were torn down to the slab and the debris removed. When crews left, nothing remained but an empty lot.
She said one house has been removed from the dilapidated building list because the owner took care of the demolition after being notified, and five more are scheduled to be torn down by the county. One of the original 10 properties was partially torn down, and if the job is not completed soon, it will go back on the county’s demolition list.
The cost for the demolition is initially taken care of by the county, but the owner will be billed for the job. If the owner does not respond in 30 days, a lien is placed against the property.
Wharton said taking down dilapidated buildings not only helps the look of the neighborhood but also the safety. She said animals and even people have been found in the buildings, and that has created a problem for law enforcement.
Wharton was pleased with the reactions of the neighbors of the properties that were demolished.
“A lot of the neighbors came out to watch and thanked the county for the work. I’m used to seeing a lot of people mad while doing my job. Having people say ‘thank you’ was something new to me,” she commented.