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Hundreds of buildings could come down

By Leigh Anne Butler

“We have hundreds of structures that could be torn down,” Mayor Johnny Hammock stated regarding the many dilapidated homes and structures located throughout Tallassee.  “Let’s face it.  We probably have two or three hundred that qualify as unsafe structures.  We don’t have the money to tear them all down.”

One concern of many Tallassee citizens is the number of abandoned and run-down properties that line the city streets.  Mayor Hammock and Andy Coker, city building inspector, are working on trying to clean up areas in need of attention.

“Andy probably spent eighty man hours putting the Community Block Development Grant (CBDG) together,” Hammock explained.  CBDG provides annual grants to cities to develop communities where funds may be used for community development such as real estate acquisition, relocation, demolition, rehabilitation of housing and commercial buildings. 

“It costs money to get someone who does this kind of work,” Hammock continued.  “You have to do asbestos inspection, send it off for testing, tear the house down then pay for it to get hauled off.  To take down a three bedroom, two bath old, mill house that is vacant and falling in, from start to finish about $7,000.”

“When I first got in office, the line item for doing that kind of work was $35,000 total (per year) for everything.  Now we have it up to $100,000 and we’ve kind of sat on that for a little bit because of the Hotel Talisi.  We didn’t know if we were going to have to burn a lot of that (money) for the Hotel so we didn’t spend it because that would probably be a $50,000 to $60,000 job.”

The city council recently condemned the Hotel Talisi, located downtown, for safety issues.  Hotel Talisi owner Wylie Troupe requested bids for repairs.  The council allowed Troupe to take bids and put a June 10 deadline to begin work to make the structure safe with the repair of the roof and exterior wall.  Troupe began work before the deadline but work has been delayed because of utility work that needs to be completed.

“There is a line that runs right between the park and the wall of the Hotel that controls a lot of the business phone and internet services,” Hammock explained.  “We have been waiting of Spectrum to come for several weeks to relocate that so they can take the (Hotel) wall down.  If they were to do it now, it would clip that line and everyone downtown would be without cable and phone.”

“What they are talking about doing once the line is rerouted is putting two braces on each corner and cutting out 55 feet on that wall and taking it down and rebuilding it to make it structurally sound.  At this point it is not Mr. Troupe’s fault  He’s been waiting on the utility company.  I think he’s been doing the right thing and getting in there and getting it done.”

Last fall the city received a Transportation Assistance Program (TAP) grant.  $725,000 in funds will be applied for work on sidewalks, pavers, handicap ramps, landscaping, lighting and minor infrastructure.  The area encompasses the block across from the Tallassee Police Station from Sistrunk Street to James, Street, Ann Avenue and Barnett Boulevard.  Federal dollars will cover 80 percent of the the costs with the city matching 20 percent.

“I’m excited to see downtown improvements with the TAP grant,” Hammock continued.  “We’ve run into a few problems with some easements that we are currently working out.  The Department of Transportation gave us the green light to use one contractor to handle it all.  That way it will move seamlessly all together.  Some of our worst utility lines: gas, water and sewer, are going to be replaced.  That is not part of the grant, but they are going to be replaced.  All the sidewalks are going to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.  They will either be stamped concrete or brick pavers on the edge.  There will be decorative street lights, especially at the corners, that will probably be cast iron black with LED lights with possible posts where you can put a hanging basket or flag.”

“We hope to get started soon and wrap up around October or November of 2020.” 

“I hope when all this is said and done, we will have new people go in some of these vacant buildings and try a new business,” Hammock concluded.