Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

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May 19, 2014

Old houses big city topic

emann@pvdemocrat.com — With the end of the 2013-2014 fiscal year just around the corner, planning for the next annual budget has begun for the city of Pauls Valley.

The balancing act with the city’s revenue from sales taxes will include everything from funding for the fire department to waste management.

However, the issue of dilapidated houses in town was the biggest topic at the first workshop earlier this week.

Beginning with an inquiry by Mayor Gary Alfred, discussion progressed from how widespread the problem was to the possibility that a plan could be developed to try and eliminate as much of the problem as possible over the next several years.

“I just thought if there was just some way we could chip away at it,” Alfred said, referring to the dilapidated structures.

“I know we don’t get any money out of it and we will more than likely have to put a lien on it.”

Alfred mentioned how he was told by Assistant City Manager Don Wageman that a rough estimate of the number of houses that would qualify for potential removal in the community could be as many as 60.

“Once you start driving around, it’s a lot of houses,” said Alfred.

City Manager James Frizell noted how at the moment there was $2,500 allocated for issues like this for the current year, though the previous year they spent around $4,000. He said in the past they might even put $25,000 toward it as it can be very expensive.

He said it is not unusual to surpass the smaller amount as the cost to even clean up around homes, be it mowing or junk removal in a year, can go beyond that.

The process itself isn’t exactly an overnight process either and it can take as much as six months or more just to get a property condemned.

It can take a while to make that happen as the city gives the property owner several chances to respond to a request to take care of the property on their own.

Frizell said it is also a slippery slope to do the lien process as it can scare away those wanting to get a property cheap for development purposes.

“It depends on how bad it is, one house can cost as much as $15-20,000 and you’ve got to bring in equipment to tear it down,” said Frizell.

“A lot of times it’s not so much the house as much as it is the junk around it.”

Councilman Lorin Jacobson echoed developing the plan to curb the problem with the worst of the worst and could include as many as five houses removed a year.

Councilman Patrick Grimmett added that for all that has been done to improve the image of the community like the recreation center or the water park, it makes sense to clean things up for those coming in to utilize those resources.

“In the five that you choose you could tailor it to fit the budget,” said Jacobson. “We need to try and help those people who are actually trying to clean their neighborhoods up.”

Near the end of the discussion Frizell said he would get something put together soon, which should involve participation with the city’s beautification committee.

“It just seems like around town we’re getting more and more dilapidated houses,” said Alfred. “To be honest it’s not just an eyesore, some of them are safety issues.”

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