Clark County receiving more money to tear down blighted properties

4:45 a.m. Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 Community News

The Clark County Land Reutilization Corp. is receiving an additional $100,000 to use to demolish blighted and vacant properties in the county.

The Neighborhood Initiative Program is awarding the money to the non-profit land bank because it is exceeding its deadlines and requirements Project Director Ethan Harris said.

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“The extra $100,000 is going to increase our funding to allow us to go after more demolition structures. So up to this day, we have spent $1 million of our current $2.1 million,” Harris said. “We were required to demo 82 properties.”

The extra funding is a reward for the non-profit’s performance, Harris said.

“We have been able to keep our costs so low and been so efficient that we’ve actually spent only half of that $2 million dollars and done 85 properties,” Harris said.

The land bank was required in November to spend 25 percent of funds and acquire properties, he said. It has acquired 100 properties, which is 18 more than what was needed. These types or properties are identified in several ways.

“First, we go and drive around. You can visually see what is blighted and then we go see what is vacant,” Harris said.

Then an inspection is done to see what the interior looks like, if there are structural issues, environmental hazards or if there is trash on the property.

“When you remove the blight and the vacant structures, you are removing areas where crime can take place,” Harris said.

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It also improves the way the community feels about itself. The group works with the City of Springfield Police Division. Local law enforcement identifies and frequently sends a list of properties the division is having problems with.

“We’ve been successful in acquiring at least five of the properties… specifically identified for us and (are) working to remove those currently,” Harris said.

There are houses all over the city that are considered blights but the land bank tries to target certain areas because that is what’s required in the funding guidelines.

There is blight throughout the community Harris said and we are tackling all of it. A home on East Columbia Street in Springfield is among at least three recent demolished homes. Nearby homeowner Judith Pillers said Christmas came early for her.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing because it’s been an eyesore for quite a while,” the homeowner said.

She’s lived in her home for 41 years and said the property was not always bad but has gone downhill in the last couple of years. She’s happy the eyesore and hazard is gone.

“The asbestos on the house was bad for people but they took it all out before they tore the house down,” Pillers said.

Once blighted properties are removed and cleaned up it is left empty to become a productive space Harris said. It can be turned into a garden, a free library or a green space with a bench.

Pillers is not sure what she would like to see replace the house but does mention her son would like to buy it and keep it up.

The land bank has already identified 50 properties to demolish in 2018 and has purchased about 20 of them.

Clark County residents who believe they live near a blighted property can contact Ethan Harris at 937-521-2181.

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