Seventy down, the next 71 or so at the ready, 1,150 or so to go.
The City Council this week gave the go-ahead to demolish 71 more flood-damaged properties.
The demolition of a first group of 70 properties, most of which were homes, was completed at the end of April.
This next group of properties is part of a group of homes tagged with red placards in the city’s worst-to-best system of purple, red, yellow and green placards. The purple-placarded homes came down first.
The decision this week to go ahead with 71 or so more homes did not come with some disagreement.
Council member Chuck Wieneke took great exception to the city’s plan to – as it did with the purple-placarded homes – treat the next 71 homes as too unsafe to enter. With that status, the city plan is that the properties can’t be checked for asbestos and the asbestos, if found, can’t be removed before demolition.
As a result, the entire property is considered to be asbestos-containing material, which requires special handling and increased costs during demolition.
Wieneke said he had “real heartburn” with the idea that the city would be paying what he said would be five times the regular demolition cost because of the decision about asbestos. He estimated the cost to demolish each house as it it had asbestos at $35,000 to $37,000.
He noted that many of the red-placarded houses have been entered by the homeowners with the assistance of city staff since the flood, and he didn’t see why city staff couldn’t do the same now to identify and mitigate any asbestos.
Wieneke said he’d be willing to walk into the homes.
City Manager Jim Prosser and Tim Manz, the city’s interim manager of code enforcement, countered, telling Wieneke that the city’s latest round of inspections found these 71 properties to be the worst of what is left standing and too unsafe to enter.
Manz said the structural instability of the 71 properties was similar to the purple-placarded homes that have now been demolished.
He noted that the city has another 140 homes that it has received permission from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to take down, and he said that group of homes likely will allow for asbestos assessment and removal before demolition.
Council member Justin Shields said it was best to err on the side of safety. Manz assured council member Tom Podzimek that the owners were being notified before the demolitions.
Bids for the work must be submitted to the city by 11 a.m. June 11.
The contract calls for an estimated 71 structures to be down by Sept. 25.
The city continues to await additional federal Community Development Block Grant funds, which it plans to use to pay for buyouts and demolitions of most of the 1,300 flood-damaged homes and other structures it expects to buy out.
FEMA has agreed to pay for demolitions of a few hundred of the worst-damaged properties.