Ledger Inquirer

Inquirer: Does the Big Red D stand for demolish or delay?

One of three Patton Drive houses that have tarps on their roofs.
One of three Patton Drive houses that have tarps on their roofs. mowen@ledger-enquirer.com

We’ve touched on today’s topic, demolition, in the past, but the issue seems to pop back up, as it did last week at Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s quarterly public forum, and in phone call.

A woman named Alma called to complain about a house on Calvin Avenue, which is off Benning Road.

Alma said there is a house near her house on Calvin that has the Big Red D spray painted on it, denoting its status as having been condemned and scheduled for demolition. Problem is, the house has been in need of demolition for a couple of years and has been designated for it for a few months, but no action has been taken.

Then at the forum Thursday night, a man named James told Tomlinson he lives on Patton Drive, which is in Benning Hills off Fort Benning Road. James called Patton Drive “the worst place in Columbus, Georgia,” and said, “You need to get some people out there and clean things up.”

James said there’s a house near his that has had a canvas tarp covering a hole in the roof for months, at least.

Tomlinson told James the same thing I told Alma. Getting a house condemned is a long and complicated process, and justifiably so. You can’t just go tear somebody’s house down on a whim. And even after the process has been completed and the house condemned, that doesn’t mean the wrecking ball is about to start swinging.

Tomlinson asked Inspections and Codes Director John Hudgison, who was also at the forum, how many houses are on the city’s Big Red D list.

“About three hundred,” Hudgison said.

Tomlinson asked how many houses he had money in his budget to demolish.

“About 15,” Hudgison said.

Demolitions costs vary of course. The numbers I’ve seen range from a couple of thousand dollars to about $10,000 per house. Of course, it would cost more to tear down a 4,000 square foot, two-story brick Colonial than a 1,200 square foot stick-framed house.

The good news is most of the houses that get condemned are closer to the latter description. The bad news is that the city has funds designated to tear down only about 5 percent of the 300 on the list. And from James’ description of Benning Hills, the list could justifiably be significantly longer than it is.

I drove out there to see about the house that James said has had a tarp on the roof for so long. Well, there were three houses on Patton with tarps on their roofs, and two of them appeared to be occupied. The third looked boarded up and abandoned, save for the three children playing on a huge downed pine in the front yard.

I agree with James. We need to get someone out there to clean things up.

Problem is, we have to pay those people to do it.

Seen something that needs attention? Apparently you’re just going to have to be patient. But you can still contact me at 706-571-8570 or mowen@ledger-enquirer.com.