BICKNELL — City officials continue to work toward getting several additional blighted houses demolished using money from a state grant.
Last month, the Board of Works renewed agreements with the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority's Blight Elimination Program that allowed the city to spend the remainder of the grant money it received from the state.
During former Mayor Jon Flickinger's term, Bicknell was awarded a $415,000 grant that was used to raze 17 abandoned houses. In January 2016, the city was awarded another $215,000 to tackle another set of houses.
The pool of blight elimination money later swelled when officials found out last spring that there was still $125,000 left over from the first round of blight eliminations, and the state told the city it could spend the remaining funds if it could get more properties folded into the program.
City officials got the green light to raze 12 houses using the 2016 grant award and they now have purchase agreements or tax deeds in hand for nine of them, Mayor Thomas Estabrook said this week.
Officials didn't think they could get the remaining three properties because they were unable to find the owners or the owner of record was deceased, but now it appears the tide has turned.
Since the last BOW meeting, Estabrook said, officials have found the owners for two of those properties and the paperwork will likely soon be squared away.
The owners of the third property are deceased, but Estabrook said a deal is in the works on that one, too, to get the proper documents.
“Once we get those cleared up, then we'll go to bid,” he said.
Officials are also hoping to put the leftover $125,000 toward an additional five houses. They have tax deeds on three of them and purchase agreements are in the works for the other two.
“We have the 12 already approved and once we get those closed and demolition starts, we can submit the application on these other five,” Estabrook said. “Once that gets in it, it won't take nearly as long because we'll have the purchase agreements.
“So those should go smoother than these 12.”
Once the 17 that are pending get razed, officials will have demolished 34 abandoned, dilapidated houses through the BEP.
Bicknell officials have also invoked the city's unsafe building ordinance to tear down another 10 or 12 houses, Estabrook added.
“The hope is by the end of this first time, 45 blighted properties will have disappeared,” he said.