Helena-West Helena mayor taking steps to fight blight in the city

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HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. — A fight against blight in Helena-West Helena is on, where crews are looking at demolishing hundreds of vacant properties.

Helena-West Helena Mayor Kevin Smith says there’s just too much blight in his city, and he’s taking aim at vacant, neglected properties owned by what he calls “absentee landlords.”

“The truth is we have several hundred, I’m gonna say 300 plus,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, we have these properties in almost every area of our city, so you don’t have to drive very far to see it.”

He says many of the properties have been intentionally burned and have become hangouts for vagrants and bad guys.

“It’s also a criminal issue. We want to eliminate places for drug activity. We want to eliminate places where people hide out,” Smith said.

The mayor says crews have already “bulldozed” a number of problem properties.

Like the one that, until a few days ago, had been standing next door to Howard Griffin’s house.

“The house fell in, and we were getting smells out of it,” Griffin said. “I think people, and dogs, and cats and things in there.”

Griffin says he’s tried for 12 years to get the house torn down and is glad Smith finally took action.

Smith admits getting 300 plus properties “bulldozed” will take a few legal steps.

“People have to remember, this is private property, and the government can’t just come in a do something with private property,” Smith said.

That process involves notifying property owners they have 30 days to make improvements or face potential fines.

“The hardest part is just trying to get people to cooperate with you,” said Helena-West Helena City Code Director Gregory Williams.

But Williams says helping homeowners like Griffin is the “payoff.”

“Very glad to help him out. I mean he’s happy, I’m happy, and it makes our community look better,” Williams said.

You can call the Helena-West Helena Code Enforcement Office if you have a blight complaint, or go to Helena-West Helena’s website and go to code enforcement for contact information.

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