Macon's dilapidated housing problem keeps getting worse, and city officials are trying to figure out what to do about it.
Jimmy Bell, a local entrepreneur, bought a rundown property on the corner of Cowan St. in Macon 7 years ago, but he is struggling to make it into a home.
"Everything is wrong with it," he says. "It's uninhabited for one, you see the porch done fell in, the back porch done fell in... I don't know what I'm gonna do with it."
The blight problem has plagued both the city and the county for years, and with city employees moving to the county in July, Bibb County Commissioner Lonzy Edwards says these blemishes in the neighborhoods may have to sit untouched.
"We're absorbing $5 million with city expenses; that means less money for things that we would like to be able to do-- although, in truth, we've not done very much before that. I think this makes it even less likely that we would have resources to devote to new personnel," Edwards says.
"What we've gotta do is get out of the box, think of a method in which we can deal with these properties in wholesale fashion---take one to the court system at a time," says Bibb CAO Steve Layson.
With as many blighted properties as there are in the area, and with owners who have either died or abandoned the lots, Edwards says taking the problem to the courts could take years.
"It will take forever if we do them case by case. I mean we go to court--it takes forever--the judges do the best they can, but typically, you have problems like finding people who are no longer in Macon," he says of absentee property owners.
In the meantime, it's neighbors of Macon's eye sores that suffer the consequences.
"People who live near these properties suffer a diminution in value of their property, but in addition to that, you have the cost of removing asbestos from the property," says Edwards. It is true that with many of these delapidated homes, asbestos is a big problem, making the cost of tearing them down or rebuilding them more expensive than expected.
Layson, however, is optimistic the county can come up with a way to keep Macon and Bibb County beautiful.
"We're putting together a committee that's made up of our attorney, made up of the people from inspection and fees, different groups that would have some influence in this process and maybe could help us with the process," says Layson. That way, people like Jimmy, can turn a seemingly bad investment, into a comfortable home.
41NBC reached out to Mayor Robert Reichert, who's very passionate about Macon's blight problem,
but he was unavailable for comment.
Bibb County's CAO tells us the city and county only have one code enforcement officer,
making it difficult to address the problem.
Commissioner Edwards says he hopes to get more non-profit organizations involved.