One of Petal’s most prominent property owners is being given 30 days to make improvements at several of his sites – including some at the main entrance to Petal – before city officials take action to rid the areas of dilapidated structures and inoperable/junk vehicles.
Jimmie Dale Odom, who owns dozens of parcels in Forrest County – including throughout Petal and Hattiesburg – appeared before the Petal Board of Aldermen on Nov. 2 to address the issue. Seven of Odom’s parcels, which have sat unmaintained and incurred various code violations over the years, were put on that night’s public hearing agenda.
“Sir, you have the means (to fix this), more so than a lot of other constituents,” Ward 5 Alderman Drew Brickson told Odom. “I know you’ve got a lot of properties … but regardless of your other obligations, we’re looking at each property as an individual entity and issue.
“My recommendation is that we move forward and do our due diligence in cleaning up the community.”
One of the main properties discussed at the public hearing is a property made up of several parcels at U.S. 11 near West Central Avenue, which leads into Petal from the Highway 42 Bypass. Dozens of inoperable or tagless vehicles sit at that site, which houses the Anything Automotive building.
“Sir, I’ve been living in this town for 26 years, and that’s been an eyesore in the city for as long as I’ve been here,” Ward 4 Alderman Craig Strickland told Odom. “I know one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but your treasure is what everybody sees when they drive into the city.
“It’s got to go. We’re not being mean about this; it’s been going on for 30, 40, 50 years, and it’s got to be addressed. One of the reasons why we’re here is to clean up the city, and this is the entrance to the city, so it will be cleaned up.”
Another of the properties in question is 309 West Central Avenue, where there is a dilapidated barn and greenhouse at the back of the site. On July 20, Odom was granted 90 days to rehabilitate the barn and tear down the greenhouse.
“This barn was built somewhere between 1913 and 1914,” Odom told the board. “So the barn’s a hundred years old, and we found signs that it was a fire hall at one time.
“I don’t really want to tear it down, but I’ve got so many things going on, I haven’t had time to fool with it. I’d still like to try to fix it, but if you want it tore down, I’ll get a permit and tear it down.”
Also discussed at the public hearing were properties at 400, 403, 405 and 417 West Central Avenue. Those properties include a small strip mall across the road from the Anything Automotive building where several inoperable vehicles are stationed.
“Me and my dad went into the car business in 1960, so we’ve been involved with cars there for 60 years; of course he passed away in ’76,” Odom said. “Me, I don’t see a problem, and I don’t see where anybody has given y’all a lot of complaints about it.
“I haven’t had anybody complain to me. But we’ve done some improvements, and I’ll continue to do some others. It’s my intention to try to get out of it, myself, but it’s going to take some time.”
However, Ward 1 Alderman Gerald Steele said there have been several complaints about the property – not just from his ward, but from residents from other wards throughout the city.
“This is one of the main entrances to our city,” Steele told Odom. “I’m looking at this picture (of the property) right here, and I can see my house – it’s not technically my front yard, but figuratively, you’ve turned my front yard into a junkyard.
“I really don’t think that you would appreciate the same thing in return."
Board members, along with Mayor Tony Ducker, will check in with Odom within the next month to see what kind of progress has been made on the properties. At that point, a decision will be made whether to grant Odom more time or to authorize the City of Petal Public Works Department to clean up the properties.
“I can’t tell you all that I’ll do it in a certain time,” Odom said. “I’ve got a lot of obligations I’ve got to fulfill, and my tax load is $60,000 a year.
“I want to do my best to suit everybody; I’ve just got to have the time to do it. There’s not any of y’all that have got the load on you that I’ve got, but I’ll do whatever y’all ask me to do. I always have done.”