A former mayor and councilman expressed concerns about the number of dilapidated houses and other structures in his community during last Thursday’s Williamson City Council meeting. He went as far as to accuse the council of not caring about that portion of the city.
“There are 22 houses on Vinson Street between the bottom of Airport Hill and Joseph Avenue that need to be torn down,” Ricky Wilkerson told the council.
He added that one of the houses in the area collapsed recently. Fire Chief Joey Carey corroborated his comment, saying that his department had spent many hours at the site.
Wilkerson brought a copy of the Williamson Codified Ordinances with him to the meeting and cited several codes that the buildings he was talking about violate.
Carey said he was aware of the code Wilkerson referenced but those codes involved the Unsafe Buildings Commission which is no longer active. He added the situation would have also fallen under the guidelines proposed by the recent zoning and planning ordinances had they been approved. He continued that it was going to be brought back before the council.
However, “methodical planning has to go into (removing dilapidated structures,” Carey warned. “There has been new legislation passed that will allow this to move more quickly.”
Unhappy with Carey’s response, Wilkerson said, “These houses can be torn down at the owners’ expense.”
Carey said there was a process to follow and that the city would have to pay for the expenses then recoup them from the property which could take years.
“I’m sure that if these were downtown something would be done,” Wilkerson replied. “You would find a way.”
Hatfield disagreed with him that Vinson Street is being neglected. The mayor said said there are more than 200 structures throughout the entire city that need to be torn down and that Councilman Randall Price has an extensive list of similar properties in East End.
“Disposal of these properties are very expensive and could bankrupt the city if we are not careful,” Hatfield said.
Councilwoman Sherry Hairston Brown, who lives on Vinson Street, said that she does not like the way the neighborhood looks. She told Wilkerson that she has repeatedly talked to the fire and police chiefs who have repeatedly written citations against property owners.
Hatfield said he agrees with Wilkerson that abandoned buildings were a significant problem in Williamson that needed to be addressed. However, he added there are many factors that must be taken into consideration in order to deal the problem.