Realtors take time to learn about meth

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The shrill cry of a cell phone cut across the Elks Lodge dining room. Quickly smothered and deactivated, the ring reminded the gathering of Realtors and financiers to scurry for the phones in their own purses and pockets. After all, the Cape County Board of Realtors didn't come to conduct business. They came to learn about methamphetamine.

Although guest speaker and Jackson fire chief Brad Golden had gathered all the ingredients -- camping fuel, starter fluid and AA batteries -- at the front table, this wasn't a cooking class. The Realtors invited Golden to speak about the dangers that meth-makers can leave behind.

In his presentation, Golden explained that Realtors can be another tool in the battle against meth.

"They get into so many homes," Golden said. "What they see can help."

Since there is no comprehensive method for tracking or listing properties that were used as meth labs, Golden told the Realtors they should be aware of the indicators when going through a property. The problem is that most meth ingredients are common household items. The key, Golden said, is to look at quantity.

"If you see a hundred pounds of matchbooks or lots of batteries, that may indicate the presence of a lab," Golden said. He also said if something looks suspicious, it's best to leave the property immediately and call the police.

"This is good information," said Sheila King of Century 21 Heartland Realty. "I never realized that a case of Heet could be used to make meth. I wouldn't even know to think about it."

In addition to detection, Golden also dealt with Realtors' concerns about the safety of a property that was known to have had a meth lab.

Cheryl Huffman of Century 21 Ashland Realty said when Realtors know a property used to house a meth lab, they have to disclose that information. But she admits that beyond that, most Realtors are ignorant about meth.

"The people ask me about the residual effects and whether it will harm their children, and I don't know," Huffman said. "We only know what people tell us."

What Golden told them at the meeting was that after the basic elements of the lab are removed, a thorough cleaning, new carpet, a fresh coat of paint and a few days to air out, the home should be safe.

After the presentation, Realtor Thomas M. Meyer cautioned that agents should not discount the possibility of a meth presence based on the price of the home. He said he knew of a house valued at $300,000 that was found to have housed a meth lab.

trehagen@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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