City won’t pay for demo after the fact

FAIRMONT – Fairmont City Council agreed Monday: The city will not help pay for the demolition of a blighted building after the fact.

The consensus came about through a request from a resident to reimburse him part of the cost to demolish a house at 212 S. Hampton. Dave Lutz, who lives at 220 S. Hampton, purchased the neighboring property in 2012 and razed a house to make it an empty lot.

“We are asking the city of Fairmont for some relief in the amount of $9,500 for the cost involved with the demolition associated with this blighted and abandoned property,” Lutz wrote in a letter to city administrator Mike Humpal.

There were several concerns voiced about the request, with one being the precedent that would be set if the council agreed to the request.

“I’m concerned we’d have a lot of blighted houses knocked down next week if we went ahead and approved this,” said Councilman Wes Clerc.

City staff also noted demolition of the house at 212 S. Hampton does not merit financial assistance like some other blighted properties, Humpal said, especially considering the house was recently valued at $83,900.

Most of the blighted properties the city has helped raze in the past were valued at less than $10,000, according to Humpal.

Clerc also observed the previous city-assisted demolitions helped boost the tax base, since the demolitions resulted in new construction or improved the neighborhood, whereas razing the house at 212 S. Hampton actually decreased the tax base.

In other action Monday, the council approved an unusual assessment deferral for a senior citizen.

Virginia Havel of 112 S. Orient St. applied for a deferral on the reconstruction assessment against her property at 315 N. Elm St., which is occupied by her daughter.

In past years, the city’s policy allows a senior citizen to defer an assessment, but only for a home they occupy. Payment of the assessment is due, with 4 percent interest, in 15 years, or immediately upon the sale of the property or the property owner’s death.

But the council opted Monday to go by state statute, which allows a person to homestead two households, if the second is occupied by extended family.

City staff was directed to change the policy in the future to allow seniors to apply for assessment deferrals on any property they homestead.

“With times the way they are, I think we should approve it,” said Councilman Terry Anderson.

The council also approved a senior citizen assessment deferral for Leo Baca of 301 E. Second St., and rejected a request from Ben Hoppe to lower the assessment on his property for reconstruction on Elm Street.

Hoppe thought he was assessed for four extra feet, but he acknowledged his mistake Monday while asking the council to still consider lowering the assessment. He felt that due to blight in the neighborhood, the project will not increase the value of his property. His assessment was approved in full.

In other business, the council:

o Agreed, per city policy, to allow the city administrator to sell back 2.5 weeks of unused vacation time.

o Approved a resolution to request an advance of $868,966 in state aid funding for reconstruction of Albion Avenue from Oak Beach Drive to Lair Road, which is a state aid route.

The city is allocated funds each year for improvements on state aid routes. The advance on those funds will allow the city to avoid selling bonds for the project.