The one-year anniversary of the house explosion on Saddle Mountain Drive passed in April. However, the city of Calhoun is still in the process of finalizing a nuisance and abatement process that will allow the city to perform cleanup at the former house site.
City officials said they know those who live near the site are eager to see it cleaned up, and that the city wants the same thing.
“Certainly, we’re anxious to get it cleaned up,” said Calhoun Mayor Jimmy Palmer. “The neighborhood would like to see it gone.”
It is important, however, to take the proper legal steps so the city will have some chance of recouping the cost and lessening the burden on taxpayers, however, he explained.
City-estimated cleanup costs are about $24,000 City Attorney Bill Bailey said. After cleanup, the city can file a lien on the property to try to recoup costs, but the collection on the lien depends upon the sale of the property.
“Whether we will ever make it all back or not, I don’t know,” Bailey said.
Still, some city council members voiced optimism that a sale will come to pass.
“There’s real estate that’s already moving on the market there,” Council Member David Hammond said, adding that he knows of a house that sold in that neighborhood within the past two weeks.
A fence surrounds the lot where a gas-related explosion leveled the house April 15, 2010. More than 60 surrounding homes sustained some form of damage, but their owners have, for the most part, finished the necessary repairs, Palmer said.
Cleanup will be especially challenging because of the fact that the city must return the lot to “grade” status – essentially flatten it, Bailey explained. There is a retaining wall behind where the house used to stand that forms a significant drop which will have to be eliminated.
In order to start cleanup, the city must go through a nuisance abatement process in municipal court. That process is in motion, explained Bailey, and interested parties – the homeowners, two banks and the insurance company – have been notified.
This situation has more moving parts than most, according to Bailey.
The city began looking into the nuisance abatement earlier in the year, but Bailey said local officials wanted to give the banks and insurance company involved a chance to narrow down their legal issues associated with the explosion.
“Usually, these abatement cases are pretty cut and dried,” he explained, “but this one could get a little complicated.”
Now, the city needs an order from municipal court to begin cleanup.
Bailey said he hopes for the city to be able to do that soon.
“It’s a major concern for everyone that lives in this community,” Hammond said. “I think they (surrounding homeowners) are looking for healing.”