Walker County will demolish five vacant, blighted structures over the next month through its Clean and Lien program.

Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield, during his June 25 regular commission meeting, awarded the bid to demolish the structures to North Georgia Groundworks LLC for $16,030 for demolition, debris removal, filling and leveling the lots with compact dirt. 

North Georgia Groundworks submitted the lowest responsible bid and met all legal requirements, he said. Six other firms submitted bids, with the highest being $71,762. 

The buildings that will be demolished in this project are at 47 Rogers Road, Chickamauga; 17 Cleveland Road, Chickamauga; 101 Salem Road, Rossville; and 350 Devine St., Rossville. The latter parcel has two structures. The work must be completed by Aug. 3.

Whitfield said county codes enforcement previously identified more than 300 vacant, uninhabitable buildings. The county contacted owners of 12 properties and tried to work with them over two to three years to resolve the issues.

Seven of them took action, leaving the county to pursue the next step, he said.  

In the past, Whitfield has explained that blighted structures devalue neighboring properties and pose a safety hazard. Children playing in a vacant building could be injured if the building collapsed on them.

"Many of them (the identified blighted structures) have trees growing through them, (roofs) falling in," the sole commissioner said. "I mean these are the worst of the worst. These are not just somebody's got a gutter loose and hanging or a shingle off or need to cut their grass. These are ones people have not lived in for years."

According to the Clean and Lien process, after being cited to court, the property owner has a period of time to bring the structure back up to code. If that does not happen, the magistrate judge authorizes the county to demolish the derelict buildings within a 270-day window.

The county files a tax lien on the property tax bill to recoup demolition expenses, and then the tax commissioner follows through with the tax collection process.

Whitfield previously said the county only takes these steps if the property owners refuse to demolish or rehabilitate their buildings, but he would prefer the county not be in the business of cleaning up blighted properties.

Catherine Edgemon is assistant editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and the Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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