Parade of abandoned properties

By Dave Taylor

Hawesville, Ky. is the county seat of Hancock County, the center of the county’s operations, but it’s also quickly becoming a gloomy parade of abandoned properties and deteriorating structures, despite years of discussions on how to prevent that very thing. In its role as the county’s newspaper of record, the Hancock Clarion is beginning a campaign to highlight the ongoing problem and spur discussions and bring the community together to improve the place many call home.
Beginning this week the Clarion will spotlight a specific property, speak to the property owner, and encourage them and the community as a whole to push to beautify the city and county and fix, renovate or eliminate abandoned and blighted properties.

“Eventually this is going to totally ruin the city,” said Hawesville mayor Charles King. “I mean it’s like a cancer, it’s going in every direction.”
Even the definition of the word blight, often used to describe such properties, emphasizes the dire condition and hints at the greater effects. Blight is defined partly as a “ruined state” but also as a “destructive force.”

Clarion publisher Donn Wimmer said he’s seen the appearance of the city of Hawesville decline rapidly, beginning as far back as the 1950s when he first moved back to the area after moving away after school.
“I’ve seen it really go down just recently, and it’s getting worse, and there’s people that are just going off and leaving their house,” Wimmer said.

Driving through downtown Hawesville from any direction leads drivers past multiple abandoned homes and businesses and others that are extremely dilapidated, to the point that Wimmer finds ways to hide it from visitors from out of town by sending them on a route that bypasses the city to get to his home west of town. “When I have friends coming that have never been to Hawesville, I’d like them to either come at night or come across the Natcher bridge and come in this side, not down through here,” Wimmer said, motioning toward Main Street.

The paper’s campaign isn’t one about pointing fingers or blame for things that have happened in the past, but instead about creating a movement toward improvement. “We want everybody to come on board and be a good team and see if we can work together and get this thing taken care of, a little bit at a time,” he said. “We’ve got to start now somewhere. And if we fail then we fail, but at least we’re going to start.”

King and city leaders, like the county leaders, have tried for years to find ways to deal with abandoned buildings, but not much visible progress has been made. “I’m 100 percent in favor of that,” King said of pushing for a cleanup. While some structures are simply not being maintained, others, including several in the heart of Hawesville, have sat abandoned and overgrown for many years and will likely need to be demolished through a lengthy legal process.

“We’re not set up to do that,” he said. “To do it right – and you’ve got to do it right or else you end up in a lawsuit – you have to have a building inspector and he has to be trained and know what he’s doing. And it’s a procedure that take s a lot of money and time, but it can be done.”

A building inspector and/or a code enforcement officer could inspect structures for dangerous problems and enforce the standards set by the government for the level of maintenance required, and those that fall short could face fines, liens, and eventually the legal forfeiture of properties in the worst cases.
But the city doesn’t have a building inspector or a code enforcement officer and King said they can’t afford one right now after taking big economic hits due to the coronavirus pandemic and a lawsuit with the bonding company for the new wastewater treatment plant. “The city of Hawesville’s broker right now than they’ve been in years,” he said.

The answer might come from the county, which he said could hire a building inspector and code enforcement officer to enforce the rules. “They need to have a building inspector and a code enforcer and why not hire the same guy for both?” he said. “If we don’t do something, it’s going to get worse,” he said.
145 River Street
The home at 145 River Street sits among a row of large old homes that were once stately and inhabited by the wealthy and successful in town, but now this house is empty with the porch slowly collapsing.
Della Mitchell, from Philpot, Ky. owns the property, which she said she bought as a foreclosure.
“Our intentions when we bought it was to fix it up for my son,” Mitchell said. “However, he’s no longer married so now our intention is to fix it up and sell it.”
She acknowledged that the house isn’t pleasing to the eye right now, but that the property isn’t abandoned because her husband goes over there about once a week.
“He said the front porch looked like it’s sagging pretty bad so he knows he’s going to have to get that off of there,” she said.
Her son mows the yard about once a week too, while the property waits for much needed work.
“Our intentions are to remodel and sell,” she said. “However, life happens and it’s just taken us longer to get started on it than we had hoped.”
dave.hancockclarion
@gmail.com

6 Comments

  1. Robert patterson on August 9, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    The old Adams garage and the old houses on Harrison st and the old blue house on main st and the and two in the middle of town hill need to go

    • Linda on August 9, 2020 at 8:14 pm

      Thank you for your comment!

  2. Concerned Townie on August 12, 2020 at 1:37 am

    There are so many abandoned houses that are owned and that are right by the county clerk’s office that aren’t very eye pleasing, however nothing has been done about this. There are people that have houses in city limits that also have junk, and trash all in the yards but yet that is not been made to be cleaned up. The city of Hawesville needs to focus on the appearance of places that are trashed vs abandoned.

    • Linda on September 13, 2020 at 3:27 pm

      We completely agree and truly appreciate your comment. The Clarion is doing all we can so people will take notice to this problem and push back! Comments like yours will help. The publisher said he is happy to publish your comment in the newspaper if you are willing. All you need to do is state the comment in a “letter to the editor”, sign your full name and bring it to the Clarion or mail it in to us. Thanks again!

  3. Hancock County Resident on August 15, 2020 at 7:57 pm

    I just now saw this and it is so weird that just the other day when my husband and I were going down town hill I said that the 3 houses there where the old thrift store used to be need to be tore down. We also said that the city, county, or whoever needs to enforce some things about keeping property looking better than it does at those houses. It is ao disgusting to see all the trash just throwed everywhere and no yard because it all growed up with trees. One of those houses used to have a big whole in the bedroom floor and you could see all the way to the bottom of the dirt. Someone lives in that house. Last I knew Wayne Miller owned those houses and he may still own them. But he needs to male them take care of the property more.

    • Linda on September 13, 2020 at 3:25 pm

      We completely agree and appreciate your comment. The publisher said he is happy to publish your comment in the newspaper. All you need to do is state the comment in a “letter to the editor”, sign your full name and bring it to the Clarion or mail it in to us. We are trying to do all we can so people will take notice to this problem and push back! Comments like yours will help. Thanks again!

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