Council OKs demolitions

Published 11:00 pm Monday, July 30, 2012

Contributing Editor
During its meeting last week, Washington’s City Council accepted a grant that will be used to help pay for demolishing the former Beaufort County Health Department building at 403 N. Harvey St. in Washington.
The hazard-mitigation grant is being awarded by the N.C. Department of Public Safety. The council adopted a budget ordinance for the project and authorized the city manager to sign a pre-disaster mitigation grant agreement.
Once the building is demolished, the vacant property will become part of the Jack’s Creek Greenway.
The project budget is $185,021. The grant provides $138,766 (75 percent of project cost), with the city providing $46,255 (the remaining 25 percent of the project cost).
The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved the 2010 grant request. The property is in a flood-prone area and suffers from repetitive damage because of flooding. When possible, FEMA prefers to spend money on acquiring such properties and having them demolished instead of paying repeated claims for flood-related damage.
The city bought the property several years ago for $68,000.
“So, we are anticipating that will be our match,” City Manager Josh Kay told the council.
In other business, the council awarded a $14,700 contract to Roanoke Electric Corp. to demolish the old house at 507 W. Second St. The city condemned the house in June.
The property has deteriorated over the years, making it the subject of a debate: demolition versus restoration.
The decision to condemn and demolish the house came after the city tried to save it by offering it for sale through the upset-bid process twice.
During the early part of 2011, Reilly Software submitted a bid of $3,500 for the property, and the city was preparing to sell the house to Reilly Software. Later that year, Reilly Software withdrew its bid. Subsequently, the city offered the house for sale again. No bids were received.
The city acquired the property through its demolition-by-neglect ordinance. The city notified the property owner the property needed repairs to keep it from further deteriorating. The property owner declined to make the repairs. Again, the city notified the owner that repairs were needed and that the city, under the ordinance, could pay for repairs to the property and place a lien against it to recoup the city’s costs to repair it.
The owner decided it was not worth it to him to repair the property, so he opted to give it to the city.
The demolition-by-neglect ordinance is used by the city to keep historically and/or architecturally significant properties from deteriorating to the point they cannot be saved by rehabilitation measures.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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