SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — Residents in South Pittsburg have complained to city leaders about unsightly, abandoned properties for years. Now, newly hired city administrator Gene Vess is vowing to enforce ordinances to try to clean up the town.
At the South Pittsburg City Commission's June meeting, one resident complained that her neighbor's house has been empty for seven years, the grass is grown up, and the structure is falling apart.
"The house is ridiculous," she told city leaders. "It's horrible looking, and it's next to me."
She said the city "got on [the owner]" a couple of times last year, but those were the only times the grass has been mowed.
Vice Mayor Paul Don King said he had a similar situation where he lives, and he tried to mow some of the yard for that property owner.
"I did it for about three months, and I got ready to go over and go to work one morning, and there were two signs pointing at my house saying 'No Trespassing,'" he said.
Vess said city officials are about to address that property and about 30 others around town that need immediate attention.
Portions of the city's charter allow officials to cite offenders and bring them to court, he said.
"The next activity that you are going to see out of us [the city] is there's going to be a lot of citations," Vess said. "We're getting ready to go down and mow that yard. The police are going to be standing right there with us as we mow the yard. [The officer's] blue lights are going to be on, and we will be issuing a citation to recover the cost of us mowing and to get [the landowner] into court."
He added that there might be a lot of people in city court next month for not taking care of their property.
Another problem in town is abandoned vehicles, which Vess called "one of my projects."
He and other city commissioners have been riding around South Pittsburg recently looking for discarded cars and trucks.
"Quite obviously, when you can't tell what color the vehicle is because of all the dirt that's on it, and it's got flat tires, it's been sitting there for a while," Vess said. "We will be instituting and applying that ordinance. You will also get cited. That vehicle has got to go."
He said the biggest problem with these unsightly properties is the rodents they shelter.
"Folks, we have not only seen a mouse, we've seen rats and we've seen gophers," Vess told those attending the meeting. "So don't go walking through those yards, because there's no telling what is going to jump out at you. We've found a little bit of everything."
He promised residents would see action on the issue soon.
"I cannot tell you that you'll see it completely cleaned up because we have to issue first a citation and get them into court," Vess said. "Then we'll go from there."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.