Jamestown officials have taken another step in the process of demolishing condemned houses.
On Tuesday, the Jamestown Urban Renewal Agency approved pre-demolition asbestos surveys for 25 properties in the city. Vince DeJoy, city development director, said the money used to pay for the asbestos surveys will come from the city's federal Community Development Block Grant money and from the $1.5 million grant the Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation received from the state Attorney General's Office.
The properties that will be torn down are those that were purchased by the county land bank during the foreclosure auction process in 2013 or are still owned by the county. Some properties were not up for auction because they were beyond repair.
"(The) county saw the wisdom to hang on to them," DeJoy said
City officials packaged all 25 asbestos property surveys as a whole instead of doing each one separately to save money. DeJoy said four certified asbestos survey firms were contacted for bid request. He said the best price received was from Stohl Environmental of Buffalo, who submitted a bid of $36,837, which was about $10,000 less the second best bid.
Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor, said the process of demolishing a condemned home has several phases. He also said there are several rules and regulations that if not followed to the letter of the law will lead to more time and money being spent to tear down a condemned house.
"It slows things up even further and adds to the costs," he said.
DeJoy said the asbestos surveys will be done within the month. He said once they are completed, if the house is found to be clean and no abatement is needed it will be demolished. However, if the house needs to go through an abatement process, which most properties will, clearing the site will be the next step.
Streets with houses going through the pre-demolition asbestos surveys include Allen, Charles, Crossman, East First, East Sixth, Falconer, Hazzard, Institute, Liberty, North Main, Spring, Thayer, Tower, Water, West 16th, Willard, Weeks and Steele, and Fairmount and Foote avenues.
In other business, the board approved purchasing five tablet devices from Verizon Wireless for the new MyGov code enforcement software program. The tablets cost $360 apiece and the data plan for all will be $150 per a month. The tablets have photo-taking capabilities for code officers during visual inspections and voice recognition software they can use to save from typing reports at City Hall. DeJoy said the new software program will lead to less paper and redundancy, which will increase efficiency.
The Web-based government and community development software program will allow all involved in the city's development office to access information easier because it will be streamlined. The program will also help mobolize code officers daily on what houses they need to continue tracking.
Not only will it help city officials, but it will assist residents in reporting possible code violations. There will be an online action center where citizens can submitted complaints, which will be easier and faster than a resident calling a city official. DeJoy said residents who file a complaint will be sent emails to update them on the process. The implementation costs for the new software program is around $30,000, with an annual software subscription being around $20,000.