Ledger Inquirer

Ledger Inquirer: Historical houses need repairs; owning company cites 'catch-22'

We have international intrigue in the Inquirer this week.

Dr. Lloyd Sampson is a retired physician who lives with his wife in a beautifully restored house in the 1400 block of Third Avenue. It has some of the most elegant and well-preserved old woodwork I’ve ever seen.

The care and attention Sampson and his wife put into the house is obvious from the minute you step inside.

But across the street is a different story. Two similarly old but vacant houses at 1401 and 1415 Third Avenue haven’t been as fortunate as the Sampson’s house.

The better off of the two, at 1401, has paint falling off of it and some exterior trim problems. The house at 1415 has more issues. It has been the target of vagrants who broke in repeatedly seeking shelter, Sampson said. And some still sleep on the large covered front porch regularly.

So the owners nailed up plywood over all the doors and windows, which keeps the vagrants out, but makes the neighborhood look like Detroit.

Sampson said the company advertising the houses for lease, South Eastern Enterprises, was once owned by John Gill.Gill, you may recall, is the Phenix City businessman who was convicted on racketeering charges in Florida, but skipped out on a $1 million appeal bond and is thought to be hiding out in Mexico.

So it’s something of an understatement to say Gill was unavailable for comment. (Hey, if Interpol can’t find him, you think I can?)So I called S.E.E. over on Holly Avenue and asked for Marlene Blossfield, office manager and registered agent for the company. I left a voice mail.

Pretty soon, I got a return call, but it was from Tacoma, Wash., from a man named Dan Van Gasken. He said he is a trustee for a trust that Gill set up, but no longer has anything to do with.

Van Gasken said he and the other trustees are aware of the problems with the properties, and said they are working to upgrade many properties held by the trust. He also said they hope to get tenants into the buildings soon.

I asked him how he expects to lease a property that has boarded up windows. He said they’re in a Catch-22 there.“If we take the boards down, they’ll break into the house,” he said.

I thought about calling Rebecca Wiggins with the city code inspection department, but these properties aren’t anywhere near where the city would or could do anything. They’re just ugly and not getting any less so with time.

And ugly isn’t against the law. (Thank goodness.)

But the good news is that Van Gasken said the trustees are in the process of sprucing up their properties and they hope to address the houses across from the Sampsons.

We’ll check back periodically and see if we can trust the trustees.

Update

Loyal Readers will remember the saga of Aurelia Hardman, who had an enormous dead pine tree in the lot across the street leaning toward her house and making her scared to even go out and get in her car.

She’d had no luck getting anyone to cut down the huge pine.

So I called the city and asked what they could do. They sent someone out and determined the tree was in fact a hazard. The house was a foreclosure and was up for sale, so the city sent the bank a nasty city-gram saying cut down the tree, or else.

So, lo and behold, the bank got the tree cut down. But whoever cut the tree down left a big stump behind.Hmmmm. Anybody got Isaiah Hugley’s phone number?

Seen something around town that needs attention? Something ugly? Dangerous? Someone not paying their taxes? Contact me at mowen@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8570.

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