The cost associated with demolishing houses remains in the air as a revision to the city ordinance looms over the board until its next meeting.
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen discussed a revision to the existing ordinance during its meeting Monday afternoon.
The potential revision came at the recommendation of Mayor Diane Delaware.
Delaware asked that the ordinance reduce penalty fees from $1,500 to $1,000 for the property owners when the city is forced to demolish a home on their property. The property owner would also be charged for the actual cost of the demolition.
“I was thinking of reducing (penalty fees) to $1,000,” Delaware said. “Then the citizen also pays the cost of the demolishment.”
But Ward 2 Alderman Dr. Jack Varner said the costs associated with the city demolishing a dilapidated home should be even lower.
“I want to lower the cost of all of it,” Varner said.
Varner said the costs and other fees are simply too expensive and can quickly add up.
“I believe we had a house torn down and charged them $17,500,” Varner said. “Is there any way we have to charge that?”
“That is an out of order...this has nothing to do with that particular motion,” Delaware replied. “This would have to do with the ordinance we are introducing. It’s a totally different subject.”
Varner said he wants to eliminate penalty fees against the property owner entirely.
“It’s too much,” he said. “People can’t afford it. You are taking their property. If you leave them their property, they may come back and building something on it. Make it as little as you legally can.”
When the city is forced to demolish a building or clean up an unkempt property, the costs associated with the process are added to the owner’s property taxes.
If owners fail to pay the tax and extra cost for demolition, the property can then be included in the annual delinquent property tax sale. If no one buys the property, it becomes the property of the state. However the city is typically saddled with maintaining the property.
Delaware said the city has to have some cost involved with the process in an effort to deter property owners from relying on the city to clean their properties up.
“We are not in the business of demolishing houses, and when we demolish a house, we take away the resources we dedicate to public works,” she said. “That is not our job. It is not what we are here to do.”
Delaware said she would like to see owners demolish or renovate their own properties.
“If we lower our costs (below or to that of) the commercial guy, then we are going to be in the business of demolishing houses,” Delaware said.
Russ Carter, building inspector, admits the costs do get high.
“But it does give a point,” he said. “We are not in this business to tear down houses. We certainly give (owners) opportunities to do something with their properties to make it viable again.”
“If we don’t give them a penalty, they are just going to have us tear it down,” Delaware added. “They are not going to go out and get anyone else to do it.”
Carter said he has had many owners call him and request the city demolish homes on their properties.
“And no one has ever paid us for demolishing a home,” Delaware said. “We would be putting our resources to work, getting nothing for it. What the homeowner gets is a free demolishment of their property because they never pay us.”
Varner said the expensive fees are why nobody is paying the city back.
“We are not getting paid anything because our fees are too high,” Varner said. “Why charge them $1,000? Charge them what it actually costs us to tear down the house.”
The board will consider the revision and take action during its next city council meeting.