State Investigating Buried Homes in Taylortown
Posted January 30, 2008 6:52 p.m. EST
Updated April 23, 2008 5:26 p.m. EDT
Taylortown — More trouble has come to the tiny Moore County town of Taylortown.
The former mayor already faces fraud and embezzlement charges. Now, state regulators have launched a probe into why the town illegally buried several homes under his watch.
"Right in this area, right here, is where he pulled up a washing machine," said Taylortown resident Rufus Cole as he pointed to an area on his property.
Cole bought a vacant lot in Taylortown a couple of years ago. He planned to build a home on it, he said, but is unable to do that since discovering two demolished houses, along with their appliances, buried on the property. The dirt is also littered with bricks and scrap metal.
"I just got stuck with 2 acres of land. I just gave money away for 2 acres of land that I can't do anything with," Cole said.
Taylortown Councilman F. Ellis Ray said the state Division of Waste Management has ordered the town to excavate as many as 13 buried homes over the next 60 days.
"That, in my opinion, is a pretty expensive undertaking," Ray said.
The town will also have to dig up a buried school bus.
Burying demolition debris and other solid waste is against state law. Former Taylortown Mayor Ulysses S.G. Barrett Jr. told the Town Council Tuesday night that he was unaware of the law.
Barrett, now a councilman, said the condemned homes were knocked down and buried a few years ago while he was mayor.
Ray doesn't accept the explanation.
"It's pretty simple. If the law's on the book, it's just like getting stopped with a patrolman on the street. He says, 'Ignorance is no excuse,''" Ray said.
WRAL stopped by Barrett's house Wednesday, but no one answered the door. He has repeatedly refused to speak with reporters.
Cole still hopes to do something with his land, once the town rights the wrong done on the property, he said.
"Why should I have to clean up something that I didn't have anything to do with being messed up?" Cole asked.
The North Carolina Division of Waste Management confirms that an investigation is under way in Taylortown, but a spokeswoman would not elaborate any further.
A year ago, Barrett was charged with three misdemeanors, including benefiting from a public contract as a public official.
The charges stemmed from an incident in which the mayor was hired to refurbish a house that the town owns. The estimated cost of the work done was more than $29,000.
The residence was to be used for after-school programs. Barrett's supporters claimed hiring him to do the renovation was much cheaper than hiring a contractor.