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Demopolis declares May to be Building Safety Month

Property owners could be cited for code violations

The City of Demopolis is declaring May as Building Safety Month and is using the campaign as way to increase awareness of city codes, including the possible citations involved with violations.

Building Safety Month is a campaign initiated by the International Code Council, the organization from which the city uses as the source for property codes.

“This is a public campaign to bring awareness to our building codes, the safety aspects of why the city enforces these codes, and to encourage the pubic to participate in maintaining their properties,” said Demopolis Building Superintendent Julius Rembert.

According to Rembert, one of the prominent issues the city deals with is overgrown lots. “We get more calls (on overgrown lots) this time of the year than anything else,” he said.

When a complaint is received on overgrown lots, the Demopolis Police Department is notified and an officer will investigate.

“If grass is up to 12 inches or higher, the property owner is in violation. We will send out a certified letter stating the violation,” said Ordinance Officer Heath McClure.

In most cases, McClure said, the certified letter is all that is needed for property owners to correct the issue. In the case where the city is notified of a repeat offender, another letter is sent.

“If it is not corrected within 10 days, a contractor for the city will go out and do the work. We get before and after pictures and submit that, along with the invoice, to the city attorney and a lien will be filed on the property,” McClure said.

Other issues involved with the codes include address numbers on houses and other buildings.

“This is a safety issue,” Rembert said. “The street number has to be visible from the street.”

Among the major concerns for city officials is the state of buildings, including those in the downtown district, said Mayor John Laney, who cites the recent collapse of a wall on the old Rosenbush Warehouse building.

“We were fortunate no one was killed. The Rosenbush Warehouse is a good example of what will result when buildings are not maintained properly and the city takes that very seriously,” Laney said.

“(The city) will be looking at all buildings downtown, ensuring they meet all the requirements as it pertains to public safety as well as other building maintenance ordinances,” Laney added.

Certified letters will be sent to those property owners who are in violation of codes.

For buildings, once a certified letter is sent to property owners, they have 45 days to make needed corrections. If no action is taken, the city is allowed to do the work, charging the costs back to the property owner.

“Of course, we always prefers for property owners to take the responsibility of maintaining their property without the city stepping in,” Rembert said. “But, we will step in to make buildings safe.”

Laney said maintaining property is important for a variety of reasons.

“We have a lot of visitors come through our town, sometimes for tourism or economic development. The appearance of our city goes a long way toward their decision to come back or possibly invest and bring an operation to Demopolis,” the mayor said. “This is an effort to ensure safety, but it is also to help move our city forward.

“I feel the lack of maintenance on some of our downtown buildings is adverse to tourism and leads to the lack of investment in our downtown, ultimately effecting economic development,” Laney said.

(This article originally appeared in the Saturday, April 28 issue of the Demopolis Times.)