Burnt down building in Decatur to be demolished at taxpayer expense
Recently, many large buildings in the city have burnt down or begun to collapse due to lack of maintenance. When a building does become delipidated or is lost to fire, it should not be the responsibility of Decatur taxpayers to pay for demolition and land clearing. Unfortunately, too often this is the case and will be the case with the property at 139 E. Marietta St., where the city council will likely approve paying $58,000 to have the building demolished.
The city will use money from its demolition funds to pay for the expense, a funding source that is already at too low of a level to remove all the city’s unsafe properties. I am a very strong advocate for removing unsafe, dangerous properties quickly and a strong supporter for more funding to remove these properties. Simultaneously, the city should take further action to reduce the need for taxpayers to pay such bills. Options that might be explored include an at-risk property registration program, business licensing, as well as the possibility of requiring insurance and bonds on a property in the event it needs to be demolished. All of these options should be explored in the context of a strategic plan for revitalization of Decatur’s neighborhoods.
Decatur has not kept pace with the rate of blight for years and the amount of money budgeted for neighborhood revitalization initiatives including demolitions is not enough. It is estimated that up to 200 properties will require demolition on an annual basis. At a cost averaging $15,000 per demolition, the annual cost would be $3 million, a one-year total that exceeds the current amount of money the city has allocated to demolitions over the longer term. Furthermore, the number of distressed properties in the city continues to rise. In 2019, there were 268 properties declared unfit for human habitation, 155 properties that were boarded up, 165 properties on the demolition list, and 60 properties demolished. In 2021, there were 376 properties declared unfit for human habitation (increase of 40% compared to 2019), 298 properties that were boarded up (+92%), 206 properties on the demolition list (+25%), and 36 properties were demolished (-40%).
The approval of the demolition will be one of five agenda items at the next city council meeting which also includes a professional services agreement to assist with funding of the Lake Decatur watershed management plan and the purchase of six police vehicles. The meeting will take place on February 7 at 5:30 PM.
DESPITE UNSAFE COVID-19 METRICS, CITY COUNCIL TO MEET IN COUNCIL CHAMBERS
From Jan. 28 – Feb. 3, Macon County’s positivity rate was 12% (state warning level < 8%), case rate was 740 per 100k (state warning level = 50 per 100k), and % hospital beds used continues to be near its highest level since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, city management continues its failure to find a meeting location that is large enough for our citizens to remain socially distanced while attending the meeting. In doing so, attendees may become close contacts and increase the probability of community spread. Given that the city has received over $30 million in federal funding which can be used to reduce the impact of COVID-19, there is no reason the city cannot provide citizens a safer place for its meetings.
PLEASE EXPRESS YOUR VIEWS AT THE NEXT CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Meetings take place in the council chambers located on the third floor of the Decatur Civic Center (1 Gary K. Anderson Place). Free parking is available in the lot immediately south of the entrance. Citizens are encouraged to attend meetings and express their views. Citizens are allotted 3 minutes per person near the beginning of each city council meeting. In addition, citizens can provide comments regarding one regular agenda item per meeting for up to three minutes provided they notify the city in advance (and prior to the start of the meeting). You can request to speak on a particular agenda item at a council meeting by filling out an on-line form at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/advance-request-to-speak-at-council-meeting/.
CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK TO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS
If you would like to discuss city issues with a council member, phone numbers and email addresses for each council member can be found at the following link: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council/.
AGENDAS FOR CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE
An agenda and information about each agenda item for each city council meeting can be found at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council-meetings/.