City has razed 33 derelict houses this year

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 29, 2007

If it seems there are a couple houses missing in Ironton, it isn’t well organized house thieves.

The city has been razing a number of derelict houses.

Mayor John Elam said that the city has been razing houses since at least the spring after he was elected four years ago.

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“The last house on the list is being torn down today,” Elam said on Monday. “It was number eight with this year’s funding.”

The city got a $35,000 Community Block Development Grant to tear down houses that had become unsafe to live in.

City Building and Code Enforcement Officer Karl Wentz said the price to tear down a house varies. Each house demolition is put out to bid.

“The most expensive house we had torn down was $5,300 and that will be reimbursed by the insurance company,” Wentz said about a house on South Fifth Street that was gutted by a fire. “We haven’t received the check yet but it is in the process of coming to us.”

There are three criteria used to determine which houses the city razes.

“We are targeting houses that have been on fire, houses that are abandoned and determined to be unsafe or a public nuisance,” Elam said. “Those are the ones we raze first.”

Since December 2003, 33 houses have been razed using CDBG funds.

The houses that were razed this year and their costs were: 321 North Seventh St, $2,475; 914 South Ninth St., $1,800; 823 Chestnut St., $2,200; 706 Buckhorn St., $4,900; 1706 South Fourth St., $4,900; $1,627 South Sixth St., $5,200; 1209 North Fourth St., $3,485 and 811 South Fifth St., $5,300.

Before the city tears down a house, it contacts the owner and notifies them the house is a public nuisance and unsafe and the owner is given a chance to either fix it up or have it torn down.

“We’ve had people come in a tear them down,” Wentz said, adding that many times it just isn’t cost-effective to fix the houses up to city standards. “We have some people who own these properties and live out of town. They get afraid of the liability and just want to do away with the house.”

Wentz said that while watching the various demolitions around town, he has had more than one person come up and tell them they are happy to see the eyesores gone.

“They tell me they appreciate the city is spending the money to tear them down,” Wentz said. “Nobody wants to see a city of dilapidated buildings, especially in their neighborhood.”

Elam said the city will apply for revitalization grants for the 2008 fiscal year, which he hopes will continue the city cleanup.