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NC6 Investigates: Neighbors Point To Dilapidated Homes, Owners

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Augusta, GA - Residents in one Richmond County community want answers after several homes remain abandoned.

Located in the Augusta community is one house that has been empty for more than five years.  After a neighbor contacted News Channel 6 about the blight, we investigated why the homes are in poor condition.

Arrive at the intersection of Walden Drive and Berkeley Road and you see homes with overgrown grass, broken windows and another one submerged in vegetation.  Barbritta Higginbotham-Green lives down the street from the dilapidated homes with her children and to her it’s more than just a sight for sore eyes.

“The one on my side some people broke in and some people were stealing the furniture,” Higginbotham-Green said.  “It’s a hazard to my children if they decide to go outside and play.  They may decide to wander.”

So when this happens, who do you call?  Code Enforcement Manager Pam Costabile said Environmental Services can cut the grass if you dial 311, but Code Enforcement Inspectors go through the very lengthy process of holding the owners accountable.  Keith Petty, a Code Enforcement Official, said they have to look at tax information, locate the owner and figure out what the individual’s situation is before deciding whether to build a case for court.

“We are going to make an effort to have the structure declared a nuisance and ultimately torn down,” said Petty.

 Costabile has boxes of folders inside her office that she said represents about 200 homes in Richmond County that need to be demolished.  She said money for demolition, which averages between $5,000 and $7,000, has already been spent for this year.  In addition, she said the department is currently investigating more homes that are dilapidated.

“The owner of that structure [1751 Berkeley Road] is an elderly lady and she lives out of state in a nursing home,” Petty said.

News Channel 6 Investigates uncovered that the elderly owner is Frances Busby-Thomas.   She’s in her early 90s and resides in Jackson, SC.  Neighbors said she lived at 1757 Berkeley Road in the 1960s and in her mind the home is just as robust as it was then when she lived there with her husband.  Neighbors also said she’s declined several attempts to sell the property, but Petty said State Code or a judicial in rem tax foreclosure, would allow the department to go after the property in court.

“She has some kin folks and in-laws and blood relations that will occasionally volunteer to assist her, but they have no legal right to say restore the building to code,” Petty said.

There was a For Sale sign on Ms-Busby-Thomas’ home so we called that number in an attempt to reach her and discuss the property.  We left a message, but again Code Enforcement officials and a neighbor said she is being cared for now. 

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