ANDERSON — "Amen, amen," was the reaction of Sean Wehner when he learned the city of Anderson was demolishing two abandoned houses in the 2300 block of Fletcher Street.
After a slow start to the federally funded Blight Elimination Program, the city is hoping to demolish 75 structures through funding from three different sources.
Wehner has lived on the block for a year and is glad the city is doing something about the empty properties.
“Anything to help the town out,” he said.
Cynthia Carter has lived on the block for 18 years and is battling a problem as a result of the abandoned houses.
“We’re experiencing rodents right now because there are mice, possums, raccoons,” she said. “I told my husband we have a new family member. Every night I have to put stuff around the house to keep the mice and roaches out.”
Carter said originally there were families living in the houses, adding the woman living in the house closest to hers kept a number of cats and dogs.
“People like me, we fight with it every day,” she said. “I’m happy they are finally doing something about it.”
Just a few blocks to the north, there is another abandoned house in the 1800 block of Fletcher Street which area residents regard as an eyesore.
Walter Romero said the house across from his residence has been empty for several years.
“It caught fire and nobody did anything with it,” he said. “Abandoned houses aren’t good for anyone. Rats and vandals get into them.”
Ronald Barker has lived on the block for 41 years. He regards the empty house as dangerous.
“My neighbor is afraid because people were going in and tearing stuff out of there,” he said. “They have been tearing all the wiring and copper out."
The Anderson Board of Public Safety awarded contracts to Fredericks Inc. to demolish the houses along Fletcher Street and several on Locust Street through the Blight Elimination Program.
Anderson Mayor Thomas Broderick Jr. said in addition to the federal funds, the city is using a Community Development Block Grant and property tax revenues to demolish abandoned houses throughout the city.
The city is asking for a one-year extension for the Blight Elimination Program through the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority.
Broderick said the city received two federal grants in the amount of $2.8 million in 2014 through the Blight Elimination Program to demolish 128 houses.
He said only 10 houses were torn down in the first year of the program during the administration of former Mayor Kevin Smith.
“The previous list was full of properties that couldn’t be torn down,” Broderick said. “We had to identify the property owners, do title work and send them a letter to see if they were willing to work with the city.”
After taking office in 2016, the new administration had to recreate the list of eligible houses for demolition under the federal guidelines.
“We had a list that was not realistic,” Broderick said. “When we want to switch properties, the state has to approve the change.”
Brad Meadows, marketing and communication director for the state agency, said a decision on giving Anderson a one-year extension will be made by Nov. 6.
“Anderson is right in the middle,” Meadows said of the projects taking place throughout the state. “We’re encouraged by the progress made in Anderson over the past six months.”
Meadows said it’s possible Anderson could lose some of the federal funding depending on how many houses can be demolished in the next 12 months.
“Anderson has to supply a detailed extension request with a list of the properties being acquired and the status of the program,” he said. “The U.S. Department of the Treasury will determine if the funds will be used elsewhere.”
Meadows said with the change of administrations in Anderson in 2016, there has been a lot of work done this year.
“What’s in Anderson’s favor is that we’re encouraged by the increase in activity,” he said. “We’re working with Anderson and will assess where they’re at and where the program is going.”
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 640-4863.