Pharos-Tribune

February 28, 2008

Officials identify vacant houses

<b>Through inspections, Hostetler, Hileman narrow list to 134 structures</b>

by Carla Knapp

As the Logansport building commission and code enforcement offices continue efforts to clean up problem properties throughout the city, the two departments have begun a new initiative to identify potential problems before they arise.

Using records from Logansport Municipal Utilities, Building Commissioner Gary Hostetler and Code Enforcement Officer Diana Hileman are working to identify vacant and abandoned houses throughout the city.

“We asked for a list of properties that haven’t had utilities in the last year, and we’re checking them to see if they’re vacant or abandoned,” Hostetler said. “Then we’re double-checking them to see what kind of condition they’re in.”

He noted that the initial list from LMU included nearly 200 properties throughout Logansport.

The study will allow the city to determine the condition of its countless vacant homes, and if necessary, to take action to clean them up. It will also provide Hostetler’s and Hileman’s offices with a watch list that might help to avoid problems down the road.

Hostetler said he and Hileman had already visited around 50 properties and had been able to narrow the list by eliminating vacant lots and other buildings not entirely vacant.

Reporting his current findings to the Logansport Board of Public Works and Safety Wednesday, Hostetler said the initial list had been narrowed to 134. He said he expected that number to continue dropping as he and Hileman continue the study, which he expects to be complete in a week or two.

Also during the meeting, the board awarded a contract to Alliance Excavating for $7,385 for the demolition of a structure at 1101 Spear St. It also accepted reports from both Hileman and Hostetler regarding problem properties throughout the city.

Hileman recommended cleanup actions at 1236 Woodlawn Ave., owned by Jack Eckelbarger; 528 12th St., owned by David Cody and Barton Turner; and 22 W. Linden Ave., owned by Rodolfo Sanchez. The owners will be charged $250 per hour for the cost of cleanup by the Logansport Street Department, along with a $50 administration fee and a $50 fine.

As per Hostetler’s recommendation, a building at 1025 20th St. was added to the city’s list of unsafe buildings after it was damaged Sunday in an explosion and fire. The building, which housed a meth lab at the time of the explosion, was also condemned by the health department.

Hostetler’s report also included updates on three properties.

After evaluating a house at 916 Vandalia St., which was purchased at a recent tax sale by Jeff Asselin and Allen Johnson, Hostetler ordered the structure razed. After speaking with the owners, who said they will not have the title until late May, Hostetler suggested the city give them until June 30 to raze the building.

Hostetler recommended the city put a hold on action for 829 North St., which he determined has no current owner. Leon Savoie was the most recent owner, but he told the building commissioner he no longer owns the property.

Though the house needs improvements, including updates to the electrical and plumbing systems and to the roof, walls and windows, the property already has more than $10,000 in liens against it. Hostetler said additional fines would do no good.

The city did, however, accept his recommended $1,000 fine for Douglas Spaulding, who owns the property at 926 Claude St. Hostetler previously ordered Spaulding to repair the building, but the property is in foreclosure. He noted there were no liens against the property.

Additionally, Tracy and Douglas Wagner, owners of 1907 North St., and Timothy Woodruff, 424 W. Melbourne Ave., were ordered to appear on March 19.

Carla Knapp can be contacted at (574) 732-5150 or via e-mail at carla.knapp@pharostribune.com