Some in Hyde Park told to clean up or pay up

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, February 11, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Houses in Augusta's Hyde Park are being threatened by bulldozers. Letters went out to some owners saying clean up your houses or they're coming down.

"I served this country. I shouldn't have to come back to my own country and live like this," said James Dunn. Dunn is a retired military officer who calls his latest battle his toughest yet. "This house was in excellent condition. We used to have our family gatherings back here."

Now after 4 months of being vacant, the family home is in disrepair. The siding has been stripped; the air conditioning unit has been trashed. "Now the city is asking me to tear it down or either bring it back up to city code...which it was already this way. It's sad."

"It's particularly hard to have to pay someone to go demolish the structure for you and clean up the lot, but that's where we are," said Rob Sherman with License and Inspection.

Dunn is facing a $2,000 to $5,000 price tag. And he's not alone. There are about 200 families in Hyde Park, and at least 40 homes are in dire need of repair.

"They are really depressing," said Thomasena Ruffin. "You look at them. It look so bad they so run down, and it's just like uh...they need to tear em down. That's all I got to say."

"It's just a bandage for a major problem," said Arthur Smith with Neighborhood Improvement. "Instead of worrying about the cleanup of this area and people keeping their properties up, they should be worried about relocation."

"For people to have to go through work hard for an American dream, and this is what we get. You own property, and this is what we have to get," said Dunn.

"We're trying to be as fair as we can be with those property owners, and I'm sure there will be some give and take from us and from them to get to the point where we can both be comfortable with the decisions that we make," said Sherman.

Property owners we talked to say that can't imagine spending thousands on property even the city deems contaminated. They say they are ready for the city to look at relocating residents.

City leaders will meet on the matter on February 27, 2008.

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