The Ottumwa Courier

July 2, 2013

City gives houses a chance at rehab

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — If the city puts a placarded house up for sale, it has a chance of being rehabilitated and put back on the tax roll.

After several discussions between the City Council and the health and inspections department to revise the city's nuisance ordinance, Councilman Bob Meyers asked why some placarded houses sell for minimal amounts and others are simply demolished.

One house on Vernon Street sold for just $1,000 at Tuesday night's City Council meeting.

"At what point does the city look at ... [does] this building need to be torn down?" Meyers asked. "If we're going to sell it for that, is there some estimated amount of money they'll put into it?"

Health, Inspections and Solid Waste Director Jody Gates said the department doesn't require that the buyer put a certain amount of money into the property.

"They just have to meet the housing code and take care of the deficiency list," she said. "And in some cases, that's a substantial amount of money, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars and in some cases less."

A placarded house will be demolished only if it's burned so badly that the cost to bring it up to code would be more than 100 percent of the value of the house, she said.

"In most other cases, if someone is willing to invest the money and do the work, the house can be rehabilitated," she said.

But once in awhile, the city receives no bids on a placarded house, so the city decides to tear it down.

"A few that we've brought to you ... were just so dilapidated and in poor locations, maybe on a hillside or something where nobody wanted to take on the task of attempting to rehab them," she said.

The council also awarded the contract for the sidewalk drop and detectable warning installation project to DeLong Construction Inc., of Washington.

"In order to be in compliance with ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] requirements, any time you come up to an intersection where you have a sidewalk that parallels the road and intersects with an existing curb ... you have to either grind and drop the curb or remove it to where there's a small lip," said Public Works Director Larry Seals. "That also allows them to re-install the sidewalk and slope it at certain grades."

The detectable warnings are the colored raised areas in the concrete of the slope into the intersection.

"The raised areas are for people who are partially blind," he said. "Some people can pick up color, others can pick up texture."

The council also awarded the contract for the East Court Street Reconstruction Project to Fye Excavating Inc., of Sperry.

The base bid of more than $497,000 with normal seeding was accepted by the council, though Seals did present an alternate bid item for seeding and watering that would have increased the project cost by nearly $11,900.

"Because of all the issues we had on Chester and Ferry, we put into the contract normal seeding and an alternate item for sodding and watering," he said. "We recommend to just go with the regular seeding, but we wanted to show you the cost difference."

Seals said the city received several complaints about seeding in recent projects on Chester Avenue and Ferry Street, which prompted him to include the alternate item in the bids.

"It gives us a clearer picture," he said. "We can sit and speculate or we can put it in the bids and have a true dollar amount."

— To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to @ChelseaLeeDavis.