County set to address blighted property issues
Brannon Hills is close to falling down. Not from the dilapidated conditions and burned out properties, however, but from county bulldozers.
The DeKalb County Community Development Department issued a public notice June 15 requesting the release of grant funds to demolish burned-out properties at Brannon Hill, which were built in 1973.
Located in Clarkston, the DeKalb County government plans to use approximately $410,000 from CDBG funds for the demolition of the dilapidated buildings.
“You can’t move forward before you realize there’s a condition that needs to be addressed,”
said Marcus Kellum, director of Beautification in DeKalb County. “[DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond] has proven that his perspective on addressing blight is one of the things that he’s serious about.”
A county official said the county is in the final procurement process to secure a contractor for the demolition. A demolition could happen shortly after commissioners vote on a mid-year budget proposal from Thurmond in July.
Thurmond presented his budget proposal June 12 which includes $300,000 for a program of boarding and abating vacant buildings that have become eyesores in the community; $84,079 for three additional code compliance officers; $401,700 for additional trucks and equipment to assist litter abatement crews; $160,290 to demolish approximately a dozen blighted houses; and $200,000 towards additional tree removal.
Kellum said the county’s program, nicknamed “Operation Clean Sweep,” has removed roughly 250 tons of debris.
Code enforcement and beatification are part of the “big three” of enforcement in DeKalb County—including the fire department and police department—Kellum said.
“I think the efforts of our staff should be commended for the amount of effort that we put in,” he said. “I’d like the [residents] to know that we’re committed and going forward.”
In 2016, a judge authorized the demolition of four buildings at Brannon Hill. In November of last year, a man was found shot dead in the complex.
Roughly a year ago, Commissioner Nancy Jester posted videos on YouTube addressing some of the conditions at blighted properties across the county, including Brannon Hill.
Jester said she’s happy Brannon Hill could soon be demolished but said the process has been “frustrating.”
“There’s the removal of debris and many of the buildings have some significant problems. [The county] has to go through legal hurdles and go back to superior court judges,” Jester said. “It’s frustrating and of course DeKalb isn’t the only government that struggles with it.”
Jester said it seems the county’s CEO is taking his campaign promise of addressing blight seriously.
“It’s something we should have done before I started waving the flag over here. I think having done that, we changed the trajectory of the county,” Jester said. “We have to buckle down and go through these types of properties. The CEO ran on a platform of addressing blight and I’m glad he’s addressing that.”
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