Wharton committed to cleaning up blighted properties - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Wharton committed to cleaning up blighted properties

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Mayor A C Wharton is standing behind his blight fighting program called 25 Square.

It's been a week since Onzie Horne, the deputy public works director in charge of the program, resigned. The mayor's administration said there was a need for new leadership after problems were discovered with money and oversight.
 
Mayor Wharton said he remains committed to cleaning up blighted properties around the city and after an overhaul, the 25 Square program will have its biggest season yet.

Twenty-five-Square stands for 25 square blocks. The Bluff city is trying to target its cleanup hitting large neighborhoods in one sweep rather than one lot at a time.

The mayor's program has been around for about two years now. Private contractors are doing most of the work, but they complained to the city they aren't getting paid. A city investigation found problems with payments and oversight over how contractors were being assigned jobs.

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But Mayor Wharton said they're working to fix the system.

"Dollars are few and we want to make sure that we have the procedures, controls in place to make these dollars go as far as they can," he said. "There was just nothing wrong with the program. We simply were not satisfied with the controls that were in place."

The city is conducting a wide scale audit of the 25 Square program. The audit is not complete. But Memphis City Chief Administrative Officer George Little said the program blew through its multi-million dollar budget this year.

Mayor Wharton said when the weather gets better and the grass starts growing again, crews will be back at work fighting the blight.

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