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Urban living

The White-Baucum House at 201 S. Izard, a once-grand Italianate house built in the 19th century and three blocks from City Hall, has been vacant for two years — but not without occupants.

By the time city code enforcement officers showed up July 1 to rout the squatters, every room in the huge old house was stuffed with several truckloads of odiferous detritus — sleeping bags, clothing, trash — along with vomit and drug paraphernalia. Castoff items had begun to spill from the 12-foot doors onto the porch and steps. Code officers were responding to a complaint received three weeks earlier, Neighborhood Programs head Tracy Roark said, but the Little Rock Police Department has been routing transients from the vacant house for a couple of years, according to neighbors. Harrison Development is on the tax rolls as owner, but Roark said it's likely the property had been foreclosed on.

The house was built by an Arkansas secretary of state in 1869 and was occupied in the 1970s and '80s by the Mehlburger Engineering firm.

The house was broken into again the evening after code officers shoveled out the trash and put new plywood up over doors and windows, Roark said. If owners of the house — possibly a bank in Russellville, Roark said — don't keep the property clean and free of transients, the city will and bill the owners.

Coincidental cleanup

Meanwhile, a comment on the Arkansas Blog about long-time neglect of vacant property at 611 W. Daisy Bates got some attention over the weekend. Crews showed up to repair broken windows and clean up the yard, a woman who lives nearby tells the Times. The owner of the house: Mayor Mark Stodola. Neighborhood Programs head Roark said there were no complaints on file about the property.

Smoking on the border

Folks must have a lot on their plate out in Fort Smith. Even with the big tax hike on cigarettes driving brand-name coffin nails above $5 a pack in Arkansas, a new study finds that citizens of that city have the second-highest per capita smoking rate in the nation. The study, part of the Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index and based on a nationwide survey of 354,000 participants, found that only Charleston, W. Va., beat out Fort Smith in the number of puffers. Rounding out the top 10 were: Huntington, W. Va.; Hagerston, Md.; Evansville, Ind.; Topeka, Kan.; Louisville, Ky.; Ft. Wayne, Ind.; Flint, Mich. and Youngstown, Penn. Meanwhile, those with the lowest per-capita smoking rates, were Provo, Utah; Boulder, Colo.; Santa Rosa, Calif.; Santa Barbara, Calif. and Salinas, Calif.

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