December 11, 2012

Logansport to demolish 10 properties

Franklin: “They’re not going to be rehabbed. It’s time.”

by Jason M. Rodriguez

LOGANSPORT — Demolition of 10 more properties in the city will begin this week as the board of works gave the go ahead to knock the structures – pegged as unsafe and some even called drug houses – to the ground.

“Honestly, we have tried very hard to work with the owners,” said Mayor Ted Franklin after Monday’s board of works meeting. “Some of them have expressed an interest in addressing the issues we are facing, but honestly they either aren’t physically able to perform the necessary repairs or don’t have the financial means to do it. So, we see no end in sight. We see no hope for rehabilitation of the properties and there’s certainly no interest in changing ownership.”

View Impending Properties to be Demolished in a larger map

Bill Drinkwine, the city’s building commissioner, outlined the efforts the city has made on the properties for years. Tales of unanswered letters, broken promises and a broken up meth lab were told by Drinkwine, who was trying to convey these properties – with more than $700,000 in liens on them and nearly $70,000 in back taxes owed – were unsafe and inhabitable. Law requires the board find these properties fall within at least one of the “unsafe premises” definitions, which include “an impaired structural condition that makes it unsafe to a person or property, a fire hazard, a hazard to the public health, a public nuisance” and more.

“Most of these properties will be down in a week,” Franklin said. “There are a couple of them that still have issues hanging over them and we’re trying to address those.”

The city has been working on problem properties for years, but the process hit the fast track when Franklin became mayor in January. He lobbied the City Council for $250,000 to rid the city of as many properties as he could get done this year. The city tore down a property on its own this summer using streets department employees. Franklin also pondered deconstructing properties through Drinkwine’s deconstruction company, before he was hired as building commissioner.

But, Franklin said, one of the listed properties may be torn down by the city and none will be deconstructed because those costs came in about 30 percent above demolition costs.

“We’re going to tear some of these places down and hopefully find some uses for them,” he said.

One concern is that once the properties are torn down, city laws adopted throughout the years governing variances and setbacks from the road and nearby properties would restrict new construction to homes that aren’t the same size as those in the neighborhood. Franklin said those interested in building on those properties have an option to get the new rules lifted.

“The option is available to appear before the Board of Zoning Appeals and to receive a variance that would allow them to build closer to the property line than is currently allowed by ordinance,” he said.

Franklin said the efforts to get rid of problems properties will continue in 2013.

“We’re moving quickly on them,” he said. “We’re trying to do it the right way. It takes a little bit of time to work through these issues.”

216 Sixth St. is next

Franklin wanted to make sure Monday the Thanksgiving Day property fire on Sixth Street that put his former colleagues at the Logansport Fire Department at risk of injury would make the end-of-the-year mark as properties the city is demolishing.

“It’s a prime example of what happens when we wait too long,” he said of the property. “It placed the safety of many firefighters there at risk. They were lucky because as that wall collapsed, they just got out of the way just in time.”

The two-story vacant building collapsed while firefighters were battling the fire. The city had repeatedly asked building owner Jeff Murray to address concerns at the property and even had part of an alley barracaded this summer due to its poor state.

The board of works will address the property at its Dec. 19 meeting.

“These places are fire traps,” Franklin said. “They’re not going to be rehabbed. It’s time.”