With the help of city incentive program, Fulton residents tore down or rebuilt a dozen nuisance homes in 2019.
Dennis Houchins, Fulton's planning and protective service director, hopes that program will help make Fulton even more beautiful in 2020. Houchins gave an update to Fulton's nuisance abatement efforts during Tuesday evening's City Council meeting, sharing a slideshow with before-and-after pictures of properties around town.
"When I went through the pictures with Houchins the other day, I could see there's been an impact," Fulton Director of Administration Bill Johnson said.
The city's efforts to help residents eliminate and renovate problem homes — homes unsafe, damaged beyond repair or unsightly — started in 2015. Since then, between the city and residents, an average of 12 such homes have been removed per year.
"There are three houses coming down right now, including those two (at 607 and 609) Bluff Street," Houchins said.
Houchins credited a Fulton incentive program for encouraging locals to demolish nuisance buildings, rather than leaving it up to the city to deal with them. Through this program, launched in 2019, a resident looking to demolish such a building will receive reimbursement for up to half their landfill fees.
Nine people used that program during its first year, he said.
"We're still waiting on two of those bills, but we think it's going to come in under $15,000 for the year," Houchins said. "Only one house has taken advantage of the full $2,500; most of them have been $1,500 and under."
In fact, one property owner brought in a team of Mennonites to deconstruct a house by hand, Houchins recalled. The Mennonites hauled away several trailer-loads of reclaimed wood, and the property owner's landfill bill ended up totaling less than $300.
Johnson and Houchins see this program as a win for all parties.
"If the city had to take down those houses on Bluff, it'd cost us $7,000-$8,000 apiece," he said.
Cities must follow stricter regulations than a private individual when demolishing a house, especially if it's an older building containing asbestos, Johnson added.
"All they need to do is contact Dennis at City Hall; he'll talk to them and take a look at the house," he said. "It's very informal, very simple. Once they get a bill from the solid waste department for the roll-off containers the city will deduct 50 percent of that portion of the bill up to a maximum of $2,500."
To reach Houchins, call Fulton City Hall at 573-592-3111.
Fulton's budget set aside about $20,000 to continue the incentive program in 2020. However, city employees are working to land a demolition-focused Community Development Block Grant. At $200,000, it would pay for the demolition of around 60 problem structures.
"If the property owner qualifies and they wish to participate, it'd cost them $500. The money from the grant, we'd use for environmental testing, demolition, cleanup and haul off, and the property owner would retain the lot afterward," Houchins explained.
Moberly landed the grant recently after five years of trying, so Fulton city employees have been picking up tips from them, he said.
"We're trying to get an inventory of properties in the community that may meet the qualifications as outlined in the grant documents, since a grant is only going to do a limited number of homes," Johnson said. "We sent out a letter to owners of properties we've identified as possibly being qualified, and we're going to use the letters we receive back to create a list (to include in the grant application)."
He said people who think they may qualify or are interested are welcome to call Houchins and join the list. If Fulton receives the grant, qualifying individuals will receive the funds and assistance on a first-come, first-serve basis.
A municipality may only receive this particular grant once, he added, so if Fulton gets the grant, it's important for property owners to take full advantage.
"You've got to think about it now and make a decision about it now," Johnson said.