Car junkies: Elizabethtown hoping to clean up junk cars

By: Chrysta Carroll - Bladen Journal

ELIZABETHTOWN — The county seat of Bladen County is hoping to take lemons and make lemonade.

“Abandoned vehicles have become quite a nuisance,” Elizabethtown Mayor Sylvia Campbell told guests at the Elizabethtown Town Council meeting recently.”We’re trying to come up with regulations to remove those.”

According to Town Manager Eddie Madden, a couple of options exist for dealing with the problem. The town does have in its budget money for code enforcement, so enacting any guidelines could be as simple as utilizing money already there. However, Madden told the Board, “We don’t have the time to dedicate resources needed for it at this point.”

Additionally, the program itself could generate money through pick-up fees, rendering it self-supporting. Still at issue, however, would be time for town staff.

A third option presented itself recently, one involving other towns.

“Just a couple of days ago, Dublin and White Lake … reached out to us about creating one position that would work for us one day a week, one day for Dublin each week , and so on,” Madden explained.

“Do we get a lot of calls about this?” questioned Councilman Paula Greene.

“We do,” responded Asst. Town Manager Pat DeVane.

“The MLK area is outrageous,” added Councilman Herman Lewis.

Town staff are hoping rather than just being seen as enforcement, the program will be seen as an opportunity. Madden said when staff enforced codes about home and property standards, many property owners who were cited stated relief at finally knowing what to do and how to go about it, and he hopes vehicle enforcement will see the same response.

“We’ll treat this as a resource for people getting assistance,” Madden explained.

Presently, the idea is to tag an identified car with a clearly visible notice explaining the automobile will be picked up seven days hence. After one week, cars would be taken to a fenced lot and held for 15 days before being sold to a scrap dealer. During the 15 days, the owner would have the opportunity to redeem the vehicle.

“This will really help the appearance of the town,” offered Campbell.

With quite a number of junk cars littering the town, staff expressed concern about jumping in head first.

“The engine has to start slow on this and build momentum,” explained DeVane. “We don’t want to start tagging 100 cars, because the phone will be ringing off the hook.”

DeVane estimated four to five automobiles per week would be a reasonable start.

Before the program can get moving, however, a few statutory requirements have to be met, including a public hearing for the ordinance amendment. The hearing will be held at April’s Town Council meeting, which was moved to the second Monday in April — the ninth — to avoid conflict with the Easter holiday. Council meetings are held at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Building on West Broad Street.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing ccarroll@bladenjournal.com.

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Chrysta Carroll

Bladen Journal