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Little Rock city officials will seek a court order to remove a property owner from his home if such action is necessary to demolish the structure, the city Board of Directors authorized Tuesday.

The city demolishes 50 to 75 condemned residential houses each year, but this is the first time officials have asked the board for permission to get such a court order as far as City Attorney Tom Carpenter is aware, he said.

In an 8-0 vote, the board authorized demolition of Mark Hursey Jones' house at 3715 Elam St. City Directors Brad Cazort and Ken Richardson were absent from Tuesday's meeting.

The house was burned in a March 14 fire. Code enforcement officers first contacted Jones in April about safety violations at the structure.

Jones has painted the exterior of the house since the fire. Caution tape borders the property. He put up the tape himself, along with half a dozen "posted private property" signs that say trespassers will be prosecuted.

The roof of the white house sinks in at spots. A tan dream catcher hangs from the small front porch. A tire is on top of the porch canopy. Various items litter the yard, including a broken microwave, wood slabs and boards, and paint.

To the right side of the home is a makeshift structure covered with plastic tarps. That's where Jones now lives, he told the board Tuesday.

"I don't have any money set aside, any retirement," he said. "What I make, I earn every day. So I'm throwing myself at the Board of Directors' mercy, as I will the court, to see me through this. My mother is the only one to help financially."

He said his mother purchased $500 in lumber to help him fix up the house and that he's had to buy new tools since the March house fire.

He's worked construction jobs since he was 14, he told the board, adding that he even helped remodel City Director at-large Dean Kumpuris' home. Kumpuris nodded that that was true.

Jones' property sits between a vacant shotgun house and an empty lot in the southwest part of the city in Ward 6.

One neighbor said the state of the property doesn't bother her because trees block her view. Another neighbor said she thinks the structure should be torn down, but feels bad for Jones. Neither neighbor wanted to give her name.

Typically property owners are given 72 days' notice to vacate a property before it is demolished.

When city workers and the demolition crew go to tear down Jones' house, a counselor will speak with him about housing options, said Andre Bernard, director of the Housing and Neighborhood Programs Department.

"Typically what we have staff do, is a resource specialist will go out there and work with him. They'll say, 'Look, we need to try to find you some alternate housing.' Any time we find out someone is going to be displaced, we try to take those steps to find them alternate housing. Sometimes they take it, sometimes they don't," Bernard said.

Bernard met privately with Jones after Tuesday's vote.

City Director at-large Joan Adcock told Jones he should talk with Habitat for Humanity about the possibility of the organization helping him build a new house on his property.

In a plea to the board, Jones talked about steps he has taken to improve the property, including boarding it up and painting the exterior. He also spoke about unrelated personal problems he has had, including the death of his girlfriend the week of the fire and a beating that caused him to lose most of the use of his right arm.

"I have a lot of friends in the building business. I've got a lot of material to get a good start on this and show you what I'm made of," he said before the board voted to move forward with demolition.

Metro on 09/16/2015

Print Headline: Let home stand, man urges board

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