ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) – More than 100 houses buildings and other structures are coming down in Athens.
The mayor is trying to spruce up the city by tearing down structures deemed dangerous by the city Department of Housing Enforcement. “I think it is a quality-of-life issue,” said Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks. He says the beauty of Athens is marred by dozens of structures all around the city.
When the city started keeping track of the abandoned properties last year, they identified 63. Now they’ve counted 102.
“They’re simply unsafe. We’ve got rooftops falling in, we’ve got back porches falling off,” Marks insisted. WHNT NEWS 19 even found one structure with a tree growing in the middle of it. Now the city is contacting property owners and pressuring them to make some changes.
Over the last 10 months, the city of Athens has torn down 23 buildings and there’s more to go. They’ve already sent out 17 new letters to building owners around the city saying fix it up or tear it down.
“We are only touching now those properties that are abandoned. Nobody is there. Nobody is living there,” said Marks. He explained the city is putting liens on properties to recover the cost of demolishing the structures, which is up to $10,000 each. And he knows there is more to clean up.
“There’s a whole other group there that have utilities cut off, people living in houses that are running water lines and electric lines from the house next-door and those are issues for the future,” he said.
Marks added that crews save as many materials as they can when they demo a structure. The wood and other things are given to Habitat for Humanity to sell so the money can be used to build new homes for the needy.