The bushes and weeds that enveloped the house at 1516 Pickard Ave. were cleared and the windows boarded up by the end of the day Tuesday, but it was easy to see during a tour earlier why neighbors and officials felt the structure was a hazard and blight to the area.

Neighbors and Tifton-Tift County Code Enforcement officers said the dilapidated house was a place for drug users to congregate. It was classified as an “imminent danger” by city ordinances after a fire May 9 that started in a mattress lying on the floor of one of the bedrooms.

Walking into the house, Angel Gray, a code enforcement officer, warned of the dangers of nails, broken glass, falling ceilings and gaping holes in the floor.

Gray explained that drug users and others who want to avoid the law use tactics such as placing nails in boards across the doorway and holes in the floor to trip up law enforcement agents who might enter. She said that when firefighters enter a building such as this one, they must also be careful of such booby traps.

“I’ve seen security cameras installed in these houses,” Gray said.

In a bedroom of the house is a burned mattress. Gray said that it appeared that someone smoking crack cocaine started the blaze May 9.

“It really poses a danger to society, and people on crack harm a community,” said Tifton Police Officer Ray Greene. “As much growth as there is around the house, a fire could set off a big blaze that would spread through the community.”

“We can pursue a faster course of action when the police department and the fire department complain,” Gray said.

Law enforcement officers also reported finding weapons in the building.

The out-of-state owner of the property had been sent two notices to clean up the property before the fire and a third when the fire occurred. The owner has not responded to any of the notices.

“We were able to go to the city and prove the structure was an imminent danger,” Gray said. “We were able to do what we did today, which was secure and close the structure and the property.”

The owner of the house and code enforcement officials will appear June 21 for a hearing in Municipal Court. City of Tifton and Tift County environmental ordinances differ and the guidelines of the city’s codes will be applied in this case.

A judge could order the owner to demolish the house within 30 days of the court date. If that doesn’t happen, the City of Tifton can put a lien on the property, have city workers tear down the building and charge the owner for the work.

Looking around the neighborhood, anyone can see that most of the residents in the area care about their property and homes. Pauline Stafford lives on Pickard Avenue and she is relieved that the city and county are taking care of what she believes is a danger and a nuisance.

“The clean-up will stop a lot of the traffic through here,” Stafford said. “People go in there and get high and we will just feel like our home is safer because of what is being done.

“It’s dangerous for the kids around here.”

The City of Tifton has vowed to pursue a citywide clean up of such structures. Fellow code enforcement officer Russell Gay said he is glad to see the progress.

“We have laid everything in order and we are now seeing some progress,” Gay said. “We are really getting some things cleaned up and it makes you feel better.”

To contact city editor Angie Thompson, call 382-4321.

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