Brewer Turley/Times-Enterprise Barwick City Council members Dorothy Beaty, left, Mayor Ned Simmons, Carl Griffin and Herman Daniels listen to citizen comments during Tuesday night's meeting.

BARWICK — The City of Barwick is one step closer to restoring its downtown area and improving other parts following a Tuesday meeting of the city council.

The council considered on first reading an unfit building ordinance that will give the city a means to bring local property up to code. Barwick Mayor Ned Simmons said a primary reason for the ordinance is to address several buildings on Main Street that are in extreme stages of disrepair.

Simmons said the dilapidated buildings pose a major safety hazard.

“If somebody goes into one of these buildings and gets hurt, we’re liable as a city, knowing some of these buildings should be condemned,” he said. “That’s all we need is another lawsuit.”

Several citizens attended the meeting to voice concerns about the city’s intentions with the ordinance. Council members pointed out they had no intentions of tearing any buildings down. That decision would be up to the owners of the property.

“This ordinance gives the city some leverage to require property owners to keep their property up,” said Barwick city attorney John Holt. “We’re not talking about aesthetic things. We’re talking about dangerous property — property that’s falling in and unfit for habitation.”

If complaints are received about a building or property issue, the city will contact the property owner and advise of needed repair. The owner will then have a certain amount of time to make any need repairs or take needed actions regarding the property.

If the owner does not respond or comply with the city’s request, the ordinance entitles the city to issue fines, place liens and condemn or take possession of property in certain cases.

Barwick resident Joe Manley asked the council to look into securing grants to assist property owners in fixing up their buildings.

“I feel like the people who own these buildings would have them perfect if they could afford it,” he said. “You’re talking about a building that’s worth two or three thousand dollars, but it’s going to take $30,000 to fix it. There ought to be something you can do without having to take those people’s property. That’s our Main Street.

“If you get rid of two or three of those buildings, we’re not going to have a Main Street.”

Council member Dorothy Beaty reiterated that it would be the owner’s option to demolish the buildings, not the city’s.

“I don’t want to see the buildings gone, and I’m sure a lot of people don’t,” she said. “But I’d rather see them gone that the way they are now.”

Property owner Scott McCammon said he has tried to secure a grant to fix his building but was unsuccessful. He said he would have a better chance of getting grant funding with the city’s assistance.

Resident Barbara Franz said she owns property next to one of the dilapidated buildings, which was constantly causing her problems with debris. She told the council she was glad to see the ordinance put in place.

Dale Hicks said there was a need for such an ordinance but that the city should allow some leeway for the more historical structures and properties in Barwick.

“We all want to see this place grow. We all want to see business and vitality come back to this community,” he said. “But if these brick facades (along Main Street) are going to be replaced by aluminum siding, I’d just as soon knock the back of the buildings down and just leave the brick facade,” Hicks said.

When contacted after the meeting on Wednesday, Simmons said he appreciated the citizens’ concerns and their discussion of the proposed ordinance.

“Again, we’re not trying to take anybody’s building or tear down anybody’s property,” he said. “We’re trying to bring Barwick back up.”

Final approval of the unfit building ordinance is expected at the council’s next meeting on March 20.

To contact reporter Brewer Turley, call (229) 226-2400, ext. 226.

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