Mayor Morse Proposes New Blight Reduction Strategies Text Size
Over the past four years, Mayor Morse made blight reduction an important priority of his administration. Generally speaking, blight describes areas of an urban community that are in disrepair. In Holyoke, much of the blight problem is due to vacant buildings throughout the city. As such, a key part of reducing blight has been to take action to either demolish or preserve blighted buildings.
Mayor Morse has made key investments in the City’s inspectional services, which have allowed the Board of Health, and other departments, to do a better job enforcing existing blight ordinances. He has worked with the Law Department and the Attorney General’s Office to expand the city’s receivership program, which has resulted in more active cases of receivership than at any time in many years. These steps, among others, have resulted in better quality of life and cleaner streets for all residents. But there is more work to do.
“I am proud of the work we’ve done to reduce blight in the city,” Mayor Morse said. “Whether putting out more litter containers, or making key investments in our inspectional services, we’ve made important strides in this area throughout the city.”
On the 10/6/2015 City Council agenda were proposals from Mayor Morse, and others, for strengthening blight reduction efforts. One is a special act that will allow the city to pierce the corporate veil that allows absentee landlords to walk away from one property while still reaping profits from others. Other proposals include a series of updates and commonsense changes to the already existing blighter and vacant building section of the city code, and the adoption of language that would allow the Law Department to go after the worst offenders by placing liens on their properties.
The most important of these proposals before the Council, in terms of cost savings and overall efficiency, is the creation of a three person property preservation team. By using funds already in the budget, along with CDBG funds, the creation of this team would have no increase to the bottom line of the city budget.
In the short- and long-term, this preservation team would save the City millions of dollars. Specifically, in the first fiscal year after its implementation, the City can expect to save roughly $1 million. Over the first three fiscal years, the City can expect to save nearly $3 million.
As of now, when the city needs to demolish a building, it must seek a private contractor to do the demolition. Keeping the demolition/preservation work in-house would better equip the city to address problem buildings and would save taxpayer money. The team would give the City the ability to assess problems as they arise and come up with a plan to either preserve or safely demolish the building in question.
“This team will give the City the ability and the foresight to act now on the buildings most in need of our help,” Mayor Morse said. “I don’t want to see another situation like we had with the Bud—a building that could’ve been saved if we’d had the ability to act sooner.”
Hiring this three-person would draw from money already in the budget, and would give the city the ability to preserve and demolish buildings at a fraction of what it would cost otherwise. To support this effort, the City is about to undertake a historic preservation inventory using federal grant money.
“Building a better Holyoke requires us to provide a good quality of life for all our citizens and to maintain the historic infrastructure of our city,” Mayor Morse said.
Mayor Morse also thanks the many city departments that have worked especially hard to keep the city clean and vibrant, especially the Building Department, which was instrumental in proposing these policies.
Posted on October 7, 2015 by Mayor's Admin