LaFayette considering options for dilapidated properties

Published 4:22 pm Tuesday, January 29, 2019

LaFAYETTE — Seven more properties were declared a nuisance Monday night at the LaFayette City Council meeting.

That makes 14 in the past two meetings, as seven were deemed dilapidated at the Jan. 14 meeting. Properties declared as a nuisance were two properties along 2nd Avenue NE and two properties along Martin Luther King Drive. Other properties were on 3rd Street SE, 6th Avenue NW, and one property along 2nd Street SW.

Now that the buildings are on a fast track to be demolished by either the city or the property owner, Monday’s discussed centered around how the city wants to move forward in tearing down the properties.

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Mayor Barry Moody said the city is making progress in declaring properties a nuisance, but that doesn’t mean property owners will do anything about it.

“It seems as so that there are going to be multiple properties where somebody has moved away, family members can’t take care of it and nobody is going to do anything,” he said. “At some point, it will be taken over by the city.”

Moody said there have been discussions about charging the property owner for any work the city has to do to remove the property. He said the charges could be added to the owner’s property tax bill.

Fire Chief Heath Cotney said fire department can help get rid of some of the properties by burning them. However, it would require an inspection to make sure there isn’t asbestos in the property. He said if there is, the fire department won’t touch it.

Moody said there are multiple ways to approach it, but the city would rather see the property owner take care of it.

LaFayette Street Superintendent George Green said residents should apply for a demolition permit, which triggers an inspection of the property. That allows the city to looks go into the property to look for certain things that would hinder demolition or potential burning. The permit also ensures that all utilities to the structure are off.

“If somebody gets the permit, then we go out and make a judgment call if it could be burned down or not,” he said.

Green also suggested the city purchase equipment that would make it easier to tear down dilapidated houses rather than bidding out the work to a contractor. He said it was averaging $4,500 a house to tear them down, but if the city had its own equipment, it would save money.

Moody also felt it would be prudent for the city to purchase equipment.

“If we go out and spend X number of dollars to purchase equipment for the same amount that we might spend, then we would have a piece of equipment that we could utilize for multiple uses,” he said.

Councilman Michael Ellis said buying equipment and tearing down homes would send a message to other property owners because some of the houses have been nuisance properties for 30 years.

“Once they realize we have been tearing down houses, it’ll get people’s attention,” he said. “We have been talking about this for a long time, and it’s time for action.”

By the next city council meeting, Green said he should have some financial information on the cost of purchasing equipment to facilitate in demolitions.

Moody said the other benefit to the city being able to demolish properties is that it would be in control of the entire process instead of dealing with a third-party.

As for burning houses, Cotney said it’ll be important to explain to residents why certain houses would be eligible for it and why others wouldn’t. He said not every house can be burned down, with some reasons being utility poles and other structures being too close.

“Those are the reasons they would be declined. It is not like we are picking and choosing who to assist,” Cotney said. “We will help anyone we can, but we can’t help all of them.”