MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

April 2, 2013

Demolition backlog coming under review

Councilor wants city to catch up in razing condemned structures

— Public Works Committee members will review today the status of the city’s demolition program for derelict housing and dilapidated structures.

The review was requested by Ward III Councilor Randy Howard, who said he was contacted by a concerned resident. The concern stems from the backlog of houses that have been condemned but remain standing, he said.

“Apparently we have about 400 condemned houses in Muskogee, and we are getting rid of about 40 a year,” Howard said. “That is a lot of houses — I know it costs money to do something with them — and we need to see what we can do to get caught up.”

Information from city planners shows the city spends about $200,000 a year to demolish condemned structures. Half of that comes from a community development block grant, and the remainder comes from the general fund.

During fiscal year 2013, which began July 1, city administrators scheduled the demolition of 43 structures at a cost of $177,992. The owners of 28 condemned structures have demolished those at a cost of $161,811.

Since July 1, city officials have condemned 36 more structures. Of those condemnations, two buildings have been torn down, two were appealed, four other appeals are pending, one structure is being repaired, and two are within an area targeted for urban renewal.

Planning Director Gary Garvin said a big push began during the 1990s to address dilapidated and derelict housing in the city. He acknowledged the backlog exists but said it is much smaller than it was just a few years ago.

From 2007 to 2012, the city has demolished 324 structures at a cost of more than $1.23 million. Data confirm Howard’s assessment that more than 400 condemned structures await demolition.

Howard said those structures pose problems for their neighborhoods and owners of adjacent property. He said his priority Tuesday will be to determine whether the city is “doing the best we can with what we’ve got.”

“I think our local neighborhoods that have some of these houses need to be cleaned up,” he said, noting an understanding of the priorities that exist when it comes to scheduling demolition projects. “Sometimes things get put on the back burner. We need to find out where we are going and let these people know what is happening, because it’s hurting their property values.”

City councilors will convene the Public Works and Finance committee meetings at 4 p.m. today. They meet in the City Council chambers on the third floor of the Muskogee Municipal Building, 229 W. Okmulgee Ave.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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