Welsh May Toughen Blight Fight

WELSH, LA (AP) — Owners of blighted property could face fines and jail time under a proposal being considered by the Welsh Town Council.

         The ordinance introduced by Alderman Bob Owens is similar to one used in Mamou.

         A public hearing on the matter has been scheduled for Nov. 18.

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         Under the proposal, property owners could face a fine of up to $500 and 30 days in jail for failing to repair or remove a condemned structure.

         Owens said there are fewer than 10 such structures in Mamou, and many were damaged during Hurricane Rita in 2005. Four of them are awaiting state grant money for demolition.

         In the past, property owners appeared before the council to address blighted properties. Many repaired or removed the structures but some did nothing, Owens said.

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         "This is just one more step up to try to motivate people," Owens said. "Even if we get half of them motivated, that's money we don't have to spend to tear the structures down."

         Owens said he'd rather residents fix up the properties than tear them down and hopes the new penalties will be an incentive for property owners to do something about the structures.

         Alderman Charles Drake, who voted against the measure, said he supported blight fines and penalties but questioned how the ordinance would be enforced.

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         "We have a lot of things written down on paper, but the problem is actually making it happen," Drake said.

         Alderwoman Becky Hudson said Welsh in the past has not had money to tear down blighted properties. Fines imposed under the proposed ordinance could pay for demolitions, she said.

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