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Lyons could get cited over house repairs

By MONICA DAVEY and DAVID BARSTOW

©St. Petersburg Times, published October 11, 1997


ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rev. Henry J. Lyons and convicted embezzler Bernice Edwards have until Monday to paint their $700,000 Tierra Verde home and clean the pool.

If not, they face fines of up to $310.

In August, Pinellas environmental management inspectors filed notice that the house Lyons' wife was accused of setting fire to in July had fallen into disrepair, violating the county's minimum housing code.

The exterior of the house needed repainting. Water and sewer service had been cut off because the bills had not been paid, electrical service was about to be cut off, and the backyard pool "is now in need of treatment," said an Aug. 12 notice that allowed 60 days to fix the problems.

Copies of the notice were sent to both of Lyons' Pinellas homes by certified mail, but the notices went unclaimed and were finally returned. Inspectors called Lyons' church and left a business card for him at the Tierra Verde house.

So far, they haven't heard from him.

The 60-day deadline arrives next week. "We'll be out there to inspect on Monday," said Larry Lara, inspector supervisor for Pinellas County's environmental management department. "If the problems haven't been fixed, we'll issue citations."

Lyons could not be reached for comment Friday. Since the July 6 fire, which prompted authorities to scrutinize Lyons' financial dealings as president of the National Baptist Convention USA Inc., he has repeatedly said he planned to get rid of the house, as well as a Rolls-Royce he owns with Edwards.

"As quickly as the sheriff will turn that house back over to me, that house will be cleaned, fixed and put on the market. I'm through with the house," Lyons told cheering convention members during a July 17 meeting in Nashville.

"I am finished with that house. I cannot walk around with that kind of baggage. I just can't do that. I am finished with the house. I am finished with the Rolls-Royce. It's got to get out of my name."

Three months after the fire, the house remains in the names of Lyons and Edwards, computerized county property records showed Friday. State officials said Friday that the Rolls also is still registered to Lyons and Edwards.

If the house has not been repainted and the swimming pool cleaned on Monday, inspectors will issue $155 citations for each of those violations, Lara said. Violators who fail to pay within 10 days are sent to Pinellas County court.

The electricity and water may remain off as long as no one lives there. "It's like snowbirds here: If they decide not to use this as a dwelling unit, it's okay" to leave utilities turned off, Lara said.

On Friday, the pool was a deep green. Its bottom was not visible. The hot tub also was murky. County officials say a dirty pool could become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Tierra Verde residents have complained about the condition of the house, the pool especially, to their community association, said Randall K. Ierna, vice president of the association. "One party said there were tadpoles in it," he said.

The association complained to the county inspectors and wrote Lyons a letter about the property: "This is not only a health hazard (but) a violation of our Deed Restriction."

In its Aug. 7 letter, the association asked Lyons to correct the problem and contact the group within 10 days.

"We haven't had any communication from Dr. Lyons or with Bernice Edwards," Ierna said on Friday, adding that the association has "legal remedies" should the problem persist.


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