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Covington steps up code enforcement, demolishes 74 buildings in four years

The city of Covington’s code enforcement department has demolished 74 structures within the last four years. This house, located at 6110 Sorrells St., was deemed unsafe in March 2012 due to holes in the roof and other unstable conditions and was demolished. (Special photo)

The city of Covington’s code enforcement department has demolished 74 structures within the last four years. This house, located at 6110 Sorrells St., was deemed unsafe in March 2012 due to holes in the roof and other unstable conditions and was demolished. (Special photo)

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This photo shows the lot where the house at 6110 Sorrells St. was located before it was demolished by the city in October. The city is working with the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing, along with the police, fire service and EMS to alleviate unsafe housing. (Special photo)

COVINGTON — Over the last four years, the city of Covington has cracked down on blighted properties and substandard structures by demolishing about 74 buildings.

As part of the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing, the city’s code enforcement department works together with the police, fire service and EMS to alleviate unsafe housing.

The Georgia Initiative for Community Housing offers communities a three-year program of collaboration and technical assistance related to housing and community development. The objective of the initiative is to help communities create and launch a locally based plan to meet their housing needs.

Code enforcement officer Jim Berry said on average about 15 to 20 houses have been demolished each year since participating in the initiative and joining forces with the other public safety departments.

Through a computer software system, the police department or fire service can notify Berry of any unsafe, substandard structure where they’ve responded to a call.

“In an event they go into a house that’s broken into or not structurally sound, they can radio it in through the software and I will receive an email to investigate the building,” Berry said. “The whole purpose of having code enforcement is for the well-being of the community. There’s safety, fire hazards, a possibility of criminal activity when there’s an abandoned or condemned house. All those things are taking into factor and alleviated when those structures are torn down.”

The city has spent about $300,000 in court-ordered demolitions over the last four years to remove the unsightly, unsafe structures within the city, according to Berry.

“I think that it is very important to continue with the housing condemnation because it certainly helps our entire community from the tax base, to cleaning up around neighbors, and rodents that seem to hang around vacant houses,” Councilman Chris Smith said. “It’s keeping our wonderful city looking as beautiful as it can.”

The city isn’t just tearing down every unfit structure, but is moving through the necessary steps before a building is demolished.

Berry said after investigating a house, he cites any fines and reports his findings of why the structure was condemned to the property owners.

If the building needs repairs but the owner does not have the financial capabilities to fix it, the city suggests the structure’s windows and doors be boarded. If the structure is condemned based on unsafe structures, a court order is filed, given to the property owner with the costs to have it demolished.

“Our goal by demolishing houses is to alleviate that negative connection with substandard structures,” Berry said. “But we always give the owners a chance to make repairs if possible.”