Old trailer is eyesore and hazard

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 10, 2005

Travel down Hale County Road 45, and you’ll come across a country church that looks like reason enough for God to have created country churches in the first place. Tall pines and oaks frame it on either side, fresh yellow ribbons adorn the doors, and its walls are painted that brightest hue of white only seen on churches.

Travel just a little further, though, and you’ll see something else: an abandoned, collapsed trailer. Dirty fiberglass insulation shows in its wide cracks. Graffiti decorates its walls. An old mattress lies at one end, a torn bag of garbage underneath the other. Many of the windows are shattered.

It’s not surprising, then, that the people who have worked so hard to make Stewart United Methodist Church so picturesque are peeved about having to share a hundred-yard stretch of road with something so revolting.

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“It’s an eyesore and a health hazard,” Stewart U.M.C. member Johnny McGahey told the Hale County Commission at their meeting Tuesday. “It encourages people to dump their trash there…there’s been two or three bags of garbage left there and an old mattress. This has gone on since the first week of last September, and we just feel like it has gone on long enough.”

McGahey told the Commission that in addition to being ugly and dangerous, the trailer gives visitors a false reflection of the Stewart community.

“We take pride in our community looking neat and nice,” McGahey said. “We want it to be a pleasure for someone to visit, the sort of place people might want to live or find a church in.”

In an interview at his and his wife Joann’s home Wednesday, McGahey said the trailer gives visitors exactly the opposite impression.

“We have functions at our church, and sometimes people come in from out of town for them,” he said. “People have to pass that thing as they come in and as they leave, and it leaves a bad taste in their mouths about our community.”

It has certainly left the taste of frustration in the mouths of Stewart U.M.C parishioners, who have now had to deal with the eyesore for five solid months, beginning with the day McGahey saw it being hauled down County Road 45.

“I was at the church doing work, and when I left to come home I met it very close to where it’s been parked,” he said. “It was clearly dilapidated…you could tell where it had come from because pieces of it had been falling off all the way down the road. It was being pulled an old International tractor, I’d say probably a ’60s model.”

The trailer’s condition, predictably, went from bad to worse.

“After a week, a week and a half it just fell down all on its own,” McGahey said. “Each time you’d see it a little more would have collapsed.” With the trailer clearly abandoned, it wasn’t long before garbage started appearing on the site as well.

McGahey said that even after five months, he still could only speculate as to the identity of the people responsible, which meant that any pressure to get the mess cleaned up would have to be applied to local officials.

“Several people were contacted,” he said. “I spoke with Walter Allen, our district commissioner, and people from Stewart spoke to the Sheriff and Judge Avery. They said they would try and do something about it.”

That was months ago, but, to the Commisioners’ credit, it appears they now are doing something about it. Avery informed McGahey at Tuesday’s meeting that the health -hazardous condition of the trailer would lead to it being removed in “2-3 weeks.”

McGahey is understanding of some of the delay.

“Not too long after it showed up, Ivan came through, of course,” he said. “I know the county had a lot to work on, that they have to give consideration to other things.” But, he adds later, “We do feel there is now ample time to get it cleaned up.”

Those clean-ups will not be limited to the one in Stewart. Commissioner Yolanda Watkins reported during the Tuesday meeting that three other trailers had been abandoned in her district, and that vandals had begun “stripping them, pulling the siding off, getting the tires off it…just taking anything of value.”

For McGahey, these incidents only reinforce his frustration on what’s a “sore subject” with him.

“It disappoints me that we don’t have more respect for what God has given us,” he said, speaking of the trashing of the Black Belt. “When industry comes in it doesn’t reflect well on the people who live there to have this stuff just around on the side of the road. They look at all these facets. I go into other states and everyone’s cleaner than Alabama. It’s a stigma.”