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Officials should push for hospital cleanup

It’s been a few months since Brookhaven officials met with the owner of the dilapidated hospital on the corner of N. Jackson and W. Congress streets to discuss what could be done about the eyesore.

It doesn’t appear anything has been done to the property since then. If it was added to the city’s list of properties that will be cleaned or demolished, we haven’t seen it. If the city has given the property owner time to clean it up, it doesn’t appear any progress has been made.

“An update on the old hospital — there’s not really anything that we, as the city, can do to either get it tested, to see whether or not it has asbestos, or anything else because we don’t own the property,” city building inspector David Fearn said at a Board of Aldermen meeting in April. “It is still private property.”

The city can take action on private property, it just has to follow the procedures spelled out in law. That typically involves contacting the property owner, having a public hearing and declaring the property a danger to residents.

The city often takes action to clean up abandoned properties, and earlier this year Fearn outlined the process.

Certified letters are sent to the owners of the properties stating the city’s intentions to discuss the cleanup of their properties at an upcoming public hearing and requesting their attendance.

At the public hearing, Fearn presents the properties and the Board of Aldermen discusses whether or not to proceed. Fearn said anyone who shows up can speak about why they do not want the city to intervene or what they can do to avoid being charged for the cleanup.

The property owner is charged for the city’s time and services through a lien against the property if the city does the work.

“Generally the aldermen give them 30 days from the time of the public hearing to clean it up themselves,” Fearn said. “[If they choose not to] the city goes in and cleans it up, whether it’s mowing the lot or taking structures down and hauling them away.”

The city approved a list of 14 properties to be demolished in July. It also approved a list of 14 more that will be monitored to ensure clean-up progress has been made. The hospital wasn’t on either list. If the owner was given time to clean it up at that point, he or she has done very little in the almost 60 days since.

We realize the process of getting an owner to clean up a property can be time-consuming, but the old hospital has been in this condition for years. We encourage city leaders to continue to push the owner to clean it up or tear it down. If that can’t be done, the city should move forward with doing the work and charging the owner.