A new member of the Meridian City Council is calling for a major urban renewal effort. Ward 5 Councilman Randy Hammon says vacant and abandoned property in Meridian is costing local government thousands of dollars each year in lost revenue, and he says it's a high price that the city can't afford to pay.
"We have neighborhoods that have to be stabilized that are all the way up to Country Club Drive."
As one of the three new members of the city council, one issue that's topping Hammon's agenda is getting abandoned and vacant pieces of property back on the tax roll. He says similar efforts have already been successful in other cities.
It's absolutely worked. Hattiesburg has stabilized 36 neighborhoods. They started 15 to 20 years ago, and they stabilized neighborhoods by doing it one neighborhood at a time.
According to Hammon getting vacant or abandoned pieces of property back on the tax roll can cost governments initially, but contends that the ultimate payoff is more.
'If you look at the studies, cities like Tampa, Philadelphia and those types of cities realized over a period of time of 15 to 20 years $1.50 for every dollar that they invested. It's being done, and it's very doable in Meridian!'
The City of Meridian and Lauderdale County entered an inter-local agreement to tear down dilapidated structures nine years ago. So far 345 dilapidated houses have been removed. Of those, sixty-five were demolished this year.