Council continues discussion on cost of demolishing blight

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Discussion of the demolition of blighted and burned out buildings in the city dominated Tuesday’s Ironton City Council meeting.

The city health inspector has been compiling a list of the worst buildings, although it hasn’t been finalized yet.

The city gets a $30,000 grant to get rid of blighted property, but council members were concerned that taxpayers bear the price for negligent property owners and that there wasn’t a way to recover the cost of demolition on uninsured properties.

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It costs the city around $3,500 to demolish a house. But if the city uses grant money to tear down a house, they can’t recover the cost of demolition.

The council would like to see fines increased and code enforcement increased on existing ordinances so owners will do something with blighted properties.

“There hasn’t been a council in 18 years that has ever put teeth into (enforcing it),” said councilman Bob Cleary of some of the fines the city can levy against negligent owners. “We need to have assessments against these properties, so owners don’t walk away scot free.”

The city does have an ordinance that indicates if a house burns and the owners get insurance money, 13 percent of the payment goes to the city to cover the cost of demolition.

Councilman Chuck O’Leary said he didn’t understand why the city had to do all the legwork to make sure it got the insurance money.

“Why are we in the business of demolition,” he asked. “Why are we spending city employees time on this?”

The council said they would consult with the city solicitors on the issues.

The Public Utilities Commission, which had a short meeting before the Finance Committee, recommended amending the budget so $25,000 from storm water funds and $75,000 from wastewater collections can be used on sewer lines from Grandview Outlet, to McGovney Street. Last week, city workers used nontoxic smoke to determine if water was leaking into sewer lines.

City Engineering Technician Paul Sheets told council members that there was leakage and that the $100,000 will be a local match to a grant to repair the lines.

City Council will meet Thursday at 6 p.m. in regular session at the city center.