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City to raze 76 properties

ALBANY -- Albany city commissioners have plans to vote next week on dedicating more than a half-million dollars to getting rid of blighted properties in a continued effort to raze dilapidated structures throughout the city.

If the plan is approved at the Nov. 24 business meeting, the Albany City Commission will move $586,000 to Code Enforcement to clear out 76 blighted properties in the city. The plan funds asbestos abatement, environmental studies and the landfill tipping fees and costs, Code Enforcement Director Mike Tilson said.

But rather then pay in one lump sum, the commission agreed to fund the demolition in increments of $100,000 at a time as that amount of properties pass through municipal court and become ready for demolition.

"I think this is great news," Ward 1 Commissioner Jon Howard, who has been pushing for a renewed focus on the destruction of blighted properties, said. "The city benefits in many ways when these structures are demolished. It's a quality of life issue, it's a public safety issue with the crack users and prostitutes living in these buildings. It's just a win-win."

The initiative outlined Tuesday would essentially expand Code Enforcement's FY 2010 budget for demolition by almost five times. The money would come from the current fiscal year budget, which goes through June 30, 2010 and would be adopted during a year-end budget amendment.

During discussion, Howard and Mayor Pro Tem Dorothy Hubbard both brought out concerns about what happens to the properties once the city demolishes them.

Tilson and City Attorney Nathan Davis said that liens for the cost of the demolition are placed on the property and those liens, commonly known as FI-FA's, must be paid if the property owner tries to sell or refinance the property, leaving the possibility that the city could get some of its money back.

Davis said that of the 90 or so properties that had already been demolished by the city over the last three years, only five or so had paid their FI-FA's.

To that end, City Manager Alfred Lott said that he would consider hiring a consultant who job would simply be to try and get those demolished properties sold to developers who will revitalize those properties so that the city would not only get its money spent on the demolition, but that it would also promote the re-birth of some communities currently suffering from blight.