Exasperated Readers in Hilton Heights are sick and tired of the mess at 3301 Cathryn Drive. This particular mess is what remains of a 6,000-square-foot house that hasn't been lived in since 1993.
That was the year Dr. Kenneth Barngrover moved out, claiming the house had been rendered uninhabitable by a sewer that ran beneath it. He asked the city to fix it, but the city said it didn't put the sewer line in. It was put in by private developers, they said, so tough luck.
Barngrover sued the city and eventually won. The city appealed the ruling and lost. By that time, it was 2001, and the property was still sitting there, falling apart, with stagnant water in a dilapidated swimming pool.
This has been going on so long, the reporter who originally covered the story for us is retired. The city attorney who originally handled the case for the city is also retired. The judge who heard the case is dead.
When the house was last occupied, Bill Clinton was so early in his presidency, he hadn't even met Monica Lewinsky yet. (Well, as far as we know.)
Zell Miller was governor of Georgia. And a Democrat.
Frank Martin was mayor of Columbus.
A young woman named Teresa Pike was just a year or two out of Emory Law School.
Hell, I was a 30-something flat-belly back then.
And the neighbors are still living with it, almost 20 years after the house was last lived in.
Why, you ask?
Well, the court originally ordered the city to reroute the sewer from under the house and to restore the house to its 1991 condition (which would now involve a bulldozer and a boat-load of two-by-fours). It also ordered the city to pay Barngrover's lawyers $273,000.
Since then, City Attorney Clifton Fay says orders have been issued, vacated and appealed in the case. Finally, a "special master" was appointed, who ordered that the house be demolished and a new single-family house be built. The city was ready to roll on that, but the other side appealed that to the Georgia Supreme Court, Fay said. That's where we stand now.
Fay said he expects a ruling "in a matter of months." If the supremes uphold the ruling that the city is bound to replace the house, the money is set aside and ready to be spent, and bulldozers are ready to roll, Fay said.
Speaking of money, the city has already spent about $250,000 on engineering, about that much again on outside legal help. Before it's all over, city taxpayers will have spent over $1 million on this debacle. And neighbors will have lived with this mosquito and raccoon farm for two decades.
For the record, I called Dr. Barngrover's office and left a message, but I didn't hear back from him.
Now for the good news. I got a call from James Worsley, the city's director of Parks and Recreation, concerning a recent Inquirer on the dilapidated handicapped walking path at Cooper Creek Park.
Worsley said the city will soon start stabilizing the bank of the creek that runs alongside the path. And it will replace the aging wooden handrail between the path and creek with a metal railing. And, while there's not enough cash in the till to repave the entire path, the city will tear up, smooth out and replace the bad spots, he said.
Seen something that needs attention? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-571-8570.