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Council stands firm on Williams nuisance

A two-year effort by the city of Cairo to abate a nuisance at 1100 M.L. King Jr. Ave. S.W. is headed back to Municipal Court next Wednesday after the Cairo City Council declined to enter into an agreement with the property owner.
The agreement that was presented called for the city to give property owner Chiquita Williams until June 2013 to obtain financing and remodel or refurbish the dilapidated structure on her property.
Ms. Williams has demolished some of the structure and has erected a fence around the property, but nothing else has been done.
Municipal Court Judge Joshua C. Bell was told by Ms. Williams’ attorney, Melvin Horne, in September that the property owner had obtained financing for the project.
However, in the agreement presented to the council Monday night it states that she has “steadfastly continued in her efforts to obtain financing.”
Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton said that Attorney Horne presented the agreement to the city last Tuesday.
“It’s been two years since we started this and very little has happened as far as I can tell,” Mayor Richard VanLandingham said.
Building Official Brian Hayes said all of the demolition had not been completed, but noted a privacy fence had been put up around the property.
The mayor said that perhaps if a specific plan with details and proof of financing were provided, he could support an extension.
Mayor Pro Tem James H. (Jimmy) Douglas cried foul.
“She has had ample opportunity to get this done. I know a person whose property we condemned and they had to tear it down. They fussed, but they complied with the ordinance. They didn’t come up here complaining. In my opinion, she has had plenty of opportunity and if we don’t follow through with the ordinance and take it back to court and see it through, we don’t need to send any more to be torn down. If we’re not going to enforce the ordinance, it is no good,” Douglas said.
He added, “She said the loan was approved in September. I see this as just another delay tactic. I’ve run out of patience.”
Councilman Kermit Gilliard pointed out that even if the case goes back to court next week, Judge Bell could still delay a ruling.
City Attorney Thomas L. Lehman said the agreement offered by the property owner was an attempt to get the matter out of the judge’s hands. “The question is whether you want to do that or not. If you don’t, it will be back before the judge next week,” Lehman said.
Mayor Pro Tem Douglas also said it appears to him from reviewing the case notes that the property owner had not complied with all the judge had ordered in the past.
City Manager Addleton asked Lehman what Ms. Williams’ options would be if Judge Bell ordered the property demolished next week. Lehman said she could appeal to Grady Superior Court and he predicted the case could be heard as early as the second week in January.
Mayor Pro Tem Douglas offered a motion to deny the agreement and Councilman Bobby Gwaltney seconded. The motion passed 4-1 with only Councilman Lannis Thornton voting no.
Douglas requested that the city attorney attend next week’s session of court to represent the city in the matter. Lehman indicated he would be there.
The matter will go back before Judge Bell next Wednesday at 9 a.m.
In other business Monday night, the council:
‰Heard an update from City Manager Addleton on the acquisition of flood-prone properties in northwest Cairo. According to the city manager, the city has closed on three of five eligible properties. Two property owners declined the city’s offer to purchase their flood-prone property. One of the properties has already been demolished by the city and two others will be demolished after Dec. 15. Following the devastation of Tropical Storm Fay in August 2008, the city applied for Federal Emergency Management Agency and Georgia Emergency Management Agency grants to purchase flood-prone properties.
‰Heard an update on the soil vapor extraction system to be installed at the city’s sanitary landfill. Addleton credited the plan review by Public Works Director Raymond Stokes for determining if it would be more feasible to install the system in phases since the city will continue to utilize the landfill for another six to eight years. The plan, which has been approved by EPD, is to install the first phase at a projected cost of $450,000 and then to install the second phase when the landfill is closed. The city had budgeted $450,000 for the entire project, but the bids received for the project were double that amount.
‰Learned that the Community Services Department building is now complete and employees will likely move in next week, according to Addleton.
‰Voted to cancel the Dec. 24 council meeting due to the Christmas Eve holiday.

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