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‘White Whale’ of blight

RDA puts focus on demolition funding

Times Observer file photo This Nov. 20, 2018 file photo depicts the property at 1 E. Main St. in Youngsville that has been the proverbial thorn in the paw of municipal and county efforts aimed at demolishing the structure after a portion of an exterior wall collapsed early last year. This year, after successfully demolishing four properties utilizing CDBG funds, the county RDA is looking ahead to future demolition projects and hopes to work collaboratively with municipalities to prepare structures for demolition.

The Warren County Redevelopment Authority continues to grapple with finding funding to address blight issues.

The RDA has received a portion of the county’s allocation of federal Community Development Block Grant funds in prior years to have some funding to work with but the federal fiscal year 2019 allocation has left the RDA out of the funding formula.

Last week, the commissioners allocated approximately $59,000 toward the demolition of the property at 1 E. Main St. in Youngsville, a portion of which has already partially collapsed.

Authority member Pam Matve during Wednesday’s RDA meeting that that action “leaves us nothing.”

“So we are going to be in a pinch,” she said. While Act 13 funding has been utilized for demolition, she noted that “Act 13 doesn’t grow on trees either.”

Four properties were demolished this year with CDBG funds and Eggleston said “everybody felt like that was a really good start.”

“Now the challenge in this (coming) year is the Main St. property in Youngsville,” he said, “the white wale of blighted properties in the county. The demolition estimates are all over the place. It’s a huge problem in Youngsville. It needs to be addressed. They don’t have the resources to do (it) entirely on their own.”

“This past year, we put Act 13 funds on the table,” he added, noting that could be done again.

Looking ahead to future demolition projects like the one completed this year, Eggleston expressed the importance of working collaboratively with the municipalities to prepare structures for demolition.

“The municipality plays a huge part in addressing it,” he said. “If we can’t cooperate with them… the hands of this group are tied to a greater extent.”

Authority member Phil Gilbert said it’s “great that we’re tearing properties down” but questioned who would be rebuilding on those lots.

“One property had 150 tires in it,” Eggleston said, noting further that neighbors have reported one of the structures to be used for illicit drug purposes.

“A vacant lot is a lot better than,” some alternatives, Eggleston said, noting that the conversations “going into next year” will shift to such proposals as setting up a sidewalk program and establishing a landbank.

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