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July 28, 2013

RAZING THE ISSUE: Council to consider funding for house demolitions

NEW ALBANY — New Albany City Councilman Dan Coffey said he could bring a $150,000 appropriation request to address unsafe structures and properties as early as next month.

New Albany Building Commissioner David Brewer told the council earlier this month his department needs the additional funding to combat dilapidated housing in the city.

Coffey said he supports the building commission’s efforts to remove blighted structures, as he labeled code enforcement a public safety issue.

“I think it kind of puts banks and others on notice that we are serious about this and we just can’t allow them to deteriorate the neighborhoods while others are trying to fix them up,” Coffey said.

The council also approved an additional appropriation of $150,000 for the building commission in June of 2012.

Coffey said he’s comfortable with how the building commission has used those funds, and is confident the administration will diligently try to retrieve any funds it spends on demolitions.

The city can recoup demolition costs by placing a lien on a condemned property, however, the money is only repaid if the lot is sold.

“It’s a slow process when you have to go through foreclosures and putting property up for sale,” Councilman Scott Blair said.

But it’s worth the wait if the city is able to cleanup abandoned properties, he continued.

“It’s an investment,” he said. “I think it’s a way to make improvements to our neighborhoods, and get rid of some properties that are blighted.”

The city hired a part-time building department employee last year to focus on filing and retrieving liens.

Brewer told the council earlier this month his department has collected more than $120,000 in liens and violations over the past year.

Brewer was off on Friday and unable to be reached on his cell phone for comment.

According to numbers Brewer presented in February, the city filed 476 tax liens for code enforcement and demolition in 2012 totaling $354,000.

Those totals were up from 2011, when the city filed 100 liens for about $99,000.

Coffey anticipates more information including the number of demolitions and the exact amount of money recouped through property liens will be presented to the council before it votes on the appropriation.

He added the appropriation will likely come from Economic Development Income Tax funds.

Blair said removing unsafe structures contributes to a bigger plan to improve quality of life in New Albany.

“It’s just another step we’re taking along with the paving initiative, developing another park, and cleaning up neighborhoods,” Blair said.

The initial ballots for the funding request could come as early as the next council meeting, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 5.

 

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