The city of Cortez is exploring the possibility of budgeting funds in 2016 to demolish blighted and abandoned properties that pose a public safety threat.
At the July 13 city council workshop, Cortez Planning and Building Director Sam Proffer said his department was going through the process of demolishing a long-abandoned property on N. Dolores Road that code enforcement staff has investigated as a safety hazard.
The ramshackle house’s interior – now a home to rodents – is covered with human excrement, food debris and empty beer cans. Copper piping and wiring have been torn from its walls. The property’s owner is deceased, and family members live out of state.
The Building Department considers the house abandoned and dangerous, and plans to ask City Council to fund asbestos tests and removal, and the house’s eventual demolition.
And he said he hopes to use the property as a cost baseline to determine how much money could be set aside in the 2016 budget to tackle additional demolitions.
“We’ve got our eye on a number of properties that need to be demolished, and we’re trying to use this as a base,” said Proffer. “I think it’s a good opportunity for us to try to talk about it for next year’s budget or at least be thinking about it.”
Proffer estimates that it would cost $20,000 to demolish a home that doesn’t need to go through a litigious condemnation process – avoided with voluntary compliance of the property owner or next of kin.
“A lot of times with these places, it’s somebody’s who’s lost a family member, and they truly don’t have the means to do it,” said Proffer.
The cost of demolishing abandoned commercial structures can vary significantly. Proffer cited the example of a Main Street building that burned in February 2014 and was demolished for about $65,000 after asbestos containment.
“Right now, all we’re doing now is boarding these things up. Because the council has brought up blight and beautification, and kind of cleaning areas up, this would be the next step for us. So we kind of wanted to get in front of you because it’s a great case study to at least think about,” said City Manager Shane Hale.
In addition to removing hazardous eyesores, the city could also stand to recoup the funds it spends on demolition, he said. Demolition costs could be certified as collection of property taxes, and a lien on the property would allow the city to recoup the funds when it’s sold.
“I’ve visited with the assessors office on this. They’re behind this, and some of the Realtors I’ve talked to are behind this because it really makes it easier to sell some of the surrounding properties,” said Proffer.
The city’s 2016 budgetary process begins this fall.