BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. — The City of Blytheville is taking proactive steps to help clean up the community and rid the city of blight.
For Ronald Williams, who lives across the street from a blighted property on Kenwood Dr., seeing a house brought to the ground is the happiness he's been seeking for years.
"At night time, I would get up and look out my window and see them coming in: prostitution, drugs," he said.
No one has lived in the home on Blytheville's west side for years, making it a haven for crime. Williams said it forced him to constantly call police — sometimes three times in one day.
"I told them, we've got to do something," he said.
The City of Blytheville, with a population around 15,000 people, has made it a priority to target empty, abandoned homes.
"We're talking about the quality of life for the people who are in these neighborhoods," Mayor James Sanders said.
Law enforcement and code enforcement worked together to see what neighborhoods were reporting problems. Before demolition, the homes must first be declared a nuisance, and property owners are given a month's notice.
"Blytheville had it's biggest problem when the base closure occurred and started seeing a slope or slide at that time," Mayor Sanders said. "This is us just trying to catch up with what's happened in the past."
In total, the city said eight homes have been demolished, but really that's just the beginning. They plan to eventually knock down about 150 houses.
"When you clean these areas up, then the neighborhood, they take pride in the neighborhood," city councilman Bishop R.L. Jones said.
While the blight project is something many residents said has been needed for years, the push to really get going started in the last few months. There's a budget of about $300,000 coming out of a general fund.
Williams, who hopes to turn the soon-vacant lot into a green space for children to play, said spending the money on demolition is an investment to the future.
The City will also get some of its money back from reselling the property and billing the current landowners