Progress Made on Joint Demolition Project

Work has officially resumed to rid Meridian of structural eyesores. Wednesday marked day two of the city of Meridian's and Lauderdale County's joint effort to tear down condemned houses.

Since the effort started 8 years ago, almost 300 condemned houses have been demolished. There are 84 on the new list.

As of 9 a.m. on day two crews had torn down two houses and cleared the remains of a third; all were on the same street.

At this pace county officials estimate that all 84 houses on the most recent demolition list will be torn down by the start of 2013.

More than half of the houses on that list are in District 2.

"Any time you can make an improvement in the community it's a benefit to everybody," said District 2 supervisor, Wayman Newell.

As part of an inter-local agreement, Lauderdale County crews physically tear down the condemned houses and haul away the debris. The city takes care of the rest.

According to Connie Royal, director of community development for the city, it can take two years or longer just to get a house on the demolition list.

"Best case scenario, 6 to 8 months," Royal said. "That's the best case scenario to get a house condemned and ready to tear down."

City officials say the property owners they contact decide to either save the structures, sell them or tear them down on their own. Ultimately, this helps get the property back on the tax roll and revitalize neighborhoods by ridding those areas of health hazards and havens for crime.

"When you get them torn down it makes the community safer, as far as varmints, rats, drugs," said Newell.

"We have had over 70 houses demolished by private owners, or they contracted with somebody to demolish them this year alone," Royal said.

With two crews doing the demolition, county officials estimate that anywhere from six to 10 houses can be torn down per day.