Florence resident Joe Box made his unhappiness over being outbid by Mayor Bob Gayle at an Aug. 10 tax sale clear when he showed up Monday to speak to city council members.
Gayle purchased five Florence properties at the sale. Only one might be rehabilitated. The others will be demolished, council member Matt Williams said.
“I would like to know what the city’s plan is with these properties,” Box said.
Gayle answered that the city wanted to put the properties in its land bank. It will take about four weeks to get deeds.
One of the houses is occupied, and the city will have to get a court-ordered eviction.
“So when does the land bank meet?” Box said.
Gayle said land bank meetings were in conjunction with council meetings.
Using language that was sometimes coarse, Box complained that residents were not told in advance that the city would purchase property.
“I think this is kind of dirty,” Box said. “I was going to build my dad a brand new house. Now I don’t know if I want to.”
Spectators spoke up to defend the city’s efforts to clean up derelict properties.
Judy Mills said the state of some Florence houses attracts the wrong people to the city.
Gerilynn Wiberg, a recent transplant from Wyoming, said she and her husband were charmed by the town, but had a neighbor whose yard was “a junkyard.”
“So I went to the mayor and said, ‘I can’t stand this anymore,’ ” she said.
Box called the city attorney “worthless.”
His remark was met with a chorus of, “We have a judge” and that the judge does a good job of dealing with nuisance properties.
“I’d sell all my houses to the land bank right now,” Box said.
“At this point, trust the land bank,” Gayle answered.
“I’m not going to do that!” Box shot back.
Williams also asked for trust.
“I think at this point, we’ve got the ball rolling and it’s going to move forward,” he said.
Some Florence houses have deteriorated until bad people move in, Williams said.
Some spectators complained about drug sales and theft of water. Residents have difficulty getting deputies to respond to those concerns, they said.
“I think it takes all of our citizens to get involved and make things better,” Wiberg said.