Codes need to be enforced for buildings

Published 4:53 pm Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Forty-five days have come and gone since the City of Selma’s Code Enforcement Department notified the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute that the building on Water Avenue had to be brought up to code or the structure would be demolished.

It has now been over a year since the Code Enforcement’s notification and there are no signs of repairs being made to keep it from falling into the Alabama River, and potentially taking adjoining buildings with it.

In a letter placed on the door of the building last year, the owners of the building, later identified as former Alabama Sen. Hank Sanders and the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute, were informed by the City of Selma’s Code Enforcement Department that they had 10 days to notify the department of plans to bring the building up to code and that the cost of possibly demolishing the building would fall to them.

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However, Sanders, on Wednesday, said he was not on the museum’s board and was not officially connected to the museum and had no authority to speak on its behalf.

Further, concern from the local historical society claims the city has no recourse to remove the building since it is designated as a historic landmark and city officials had not run the plan by the Historic Development Commission.

How long do you wait? Do we wait for this building to eventually fall into the Alabama River?

And as far as the code enforcement department, that office was disbanded during the recent layoffs at the city, but prior to the layoffs, it doesn’t seem as though the code enforcement office was enforcing anything anyway. Just a quick drive through the city illustrates that fact, and begs the question of how many other buildings are in danger of falling in due to lack of care or code enforcement, or other situations where trash and garbage are creating public health hazards.

Selma City Councilwoman Miah Jackson said that training and education is needed for code enforcers on what legal processes can be taken on those violating city codes. We agree that is needed, but we must have a code enforcement department that is actually held accountable by someone for doing their job, and doing it fairly and expeditiously. That obviously was not the case before the layoffs, and it’s not the case now.

We urge the city council to make code enforcement a priority. If they don’t, and this problem continues to fester, there may not be a Selma for people to come visit any longer, at least not one we’d want them to see.