Pontiac works to demolish blighted homes, many remain

By Carol Hopkins
The Oakland Press

PONTIAC (AP) - The fight against property blight continues to be a challenge in Pontiac.

When current Mayor Deirdre Waterman came into office in 2014, she found that the city had 1,000 dangerous structures causing distress in the neighborhoods.

Some progress has been made.

Working with Oakland County, she said she altered how the city was demolishing buildings.

"I streamlined the process, eliminated red tape and was able to dedicate federal funds to the problem," she told The Oakland Press.

Waterman said there are 415 homes left to be demolished.

The city is now using federal Community Development Block Grant funds to take down privately owned dangerous buildings, she said.

The city "batches" homes to be demolished, city officials said, because more contractors will submit bids in that way.

The first batch of demolitions was done in the fall 2013, and the city is now on batch No. 13.

Waterman reported the average price to tear down a blighted home costs between $10,740 and $11,490. The cost includes water shut-off and asbestos abatement.

The city estimates that another 100 to 125 homes will be demolished by June 30, 2016.

City officials said bids will be released for asbestos abatement at nearly 60 blighted homes in the next few weeks.

That work will probably not begin until end of December or beginning of January, officials said.

Mona Hofmeister, vice chair of Citizens Against Blight, keeps track of where blighted homes exist.

On a recent tour of the city's worst properties, she drove past 81 Thorpe, an empty house with no window glass that was stripped before Christmas 2014 - yet still stands.

Demolition crews took down a house next to it, but left the stripped house, said Hofmeister.

Joelette Lewis, who lives next door, said the house is dangerous with animals moving in and out and vagrants staying inside.

"It's scary because my (daughters) walk past it to get the school bus and we don't know who's in there," said Lewis.

Word came last month that 81 Thorpe was expected to be demolished, according to Hofmeister.

Blighted homes are in each district.

A house that burned in April still sits at 134 Murphy.

At 194 Florence, people can look into the first floor and see wadded blankets and trash inside.

Neighbors next to 234 Liberty said they believe that abandoned house has sat vacant at least six years.

"If you lived in your house and paid taxes 40-50 years, do you want to look out your window and see this?" asked Hofmeister.

Published: Wed, Dec 09, 2015


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