published Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Marion County board weighs options for abandoned house

Officials would like to burn this house, at 13063 Griffith Highway in Powells Crossroads, Tenn., as part of volunteer firefighter training.
Officials would like to burn this house, at 13063 Griffith Highway in Powells Crossroads, Tenn., as part of volunteer firefighter training.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
House
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JASPER, Tenn. -- A seemingly simple plan to burn down a dilapidated house in Powells Crossroads and give its fire department valuable training is on hold as Marion County officials try to ensure the idea doesn't come back to burn them, too.

Powells Crossroads Mayor Ralph Chapin said officials tried to sell the house at 13063 Griffith Highway last year, but no one bought the property because it has a hefty lien of about $20,000 on it.

"We've had the building inspector up there, and he has said it's a hazard to children in the neighborhood if they wander in there," he said. "It's dangerous, and it's a haven for all kinds of vermin."

On Monday, Chapin asked the Marion County Commission for permission to burn the house as a training exercise for the Powells Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department.

"That way we can kill two birds with one stone," he said. "We can get rid of the house, and we can give our fire department some needed practice."

The board voted unanimously to allow Marion County Attorney Billy Gouger to pursue the matter and come back with a recommendation at its next meeting on June 25.

Gouger said the issues of possible air pollution from burning the house and finding out who holds the lien on the property must be worked out before the board can make a firm decision.

"My concern is: Who holds the lien against the property?" he said. "There have been suggestions that it might be a TennCare lien, which would be the state of Tennessee. That might be a problem. If it's something else, we may be able to work around that."

County Commission Chairman Les Price said if the county authorized the burning without finding out some important details, the holder of the lien could accuse the county of destroying his or her property.

"As far as [Powells Crossroads] is concerned, that property belongs to the county," Chapin said.

"We're just not sure that's exactly true," Price said.

While he should be able to find out the needed information by next month's meeting, Gouger said, he is not certain the city can get a permit to burn the house because there have been problems with that in the past.

Air pollution shouldn't be an problem because the fire department can go in and "sanitize" the house before burning it, Chapin said.

"It seems like one of those things that's easier to get forgiveness for than permission," Price said.

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