Macon-Bibb County officials gathered in the cold Wednesday to watch the demolition of three houses on Rutherford Avenue, the first such tear-downs by the new consolidated government.
Those three south Macon houses, Mayor Robert Reichert said, make a total of 61 torn down since July 1, 2013.
This is a reflection of our continued emphasis on the demolition of blighted, abandoned and dilapidated structures, he said.
At noon, Reichert posed with Commissioners Elaine Lucas and Virgil Watkins, as well as former Macon Councilmen Henry Ficklin and Larry Schlesinger, contenders for the still-contested District 2 commission seat. They stood in front of the row of three houses at 606, 614 and 638 Rutherford Ave.
After Reicherts brief speech, a Public Works excavator tore into the roof and side of the house at 606 Rutherford Ave.
Our goal is to get all three of them down in two days, Public Works Director Richard Powell said. Theyll be left as clear lots, needing only to be mowed, he said. This was the first time employees of the former city and county have worked together on house demolition.
There are no immediate plans to redevelop the lots, but they will be owned by the city-county government or a related agency, said Alex Morrison, assistant director of the Economic & Community Development Department.
Reichert said the now-unified government will target abandoned buildings in all parts of Macon-Bibb County. Run-down and empty houses not only lower the value of surrounding properties, but they attract criminal uses as well, from vandalism to drug dealing, he said.
The sheriff has told me that one of the best things we can do to improve the safety of our neighborhoods is to tear down blighted, abandoned and empty houses.
After his public remarks, Reichert acknowledged that the city fell behind on its goal of tearing down 100 houses per year. Thats an intention he stated regularly during his years as Macons mayor before taking office as the first Macon-Bibb County mayor.
Chris Floore, director of public affairs, said 85 houses were torn down during the 2013 calendar year.
In early July, right after the Macon City Council put $530,500 into the budget for tearing down dilapidated houses, Dale Walker -- then the citys interim chief administrative officer who is now Macon-Bibb CAO -- said by email that the citys goal was to tear down 100 houses in 75 days due to the previous lackluster year.
On Nov. 2, Walker told a City Council committee that just 32 houses had been torn down since July 1, 2013, but the city hoped to reach the goal of 100 by Dec. 31.
Reichert blamed the shortfall on city crews being tied up in several larger and more complex demolitions, such as tearing down the former Boys & Girls Club building on Second Street and the former Central Services headquarters on Riverside Drive.
The Boys & Girls Club was torn down in February 2013, while Central Services was demolished in June of that year.
Reichert said he wasnt sure how much of the $530,500 remains to be used or how much will be recommended for the fiscal year that starts July 1, but he said demolition would be a high priority.
Getting old houses torn down can be a drawn-out and complicated process, he noted. After code enforcement makes multiple tries to get property owners to clean things up themselves -- and often struggles to find owners of long-abandoned properties -- those houses must still be cleared by a judge for demolition, have any asbestos or other hazardous substances removed, and are then scheduled to be torn down.
Costs vary. Reichert said it often runs somewhere between $15,000 and $25,000 to tear down empty houses. In 2012, Wanzina Jackson, director of the Economic and Community Development Department, estimated the average cost at about $7,500 each.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.