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Watertown City Council to weigh demolition funding in budget

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A few weeks ago, the city’s code enforcement office had a portion of a dilapidated warehouse torn down because its roof had collapsed.

Code Enforcement Supervisor Shawn R. McWayne said it cost the city about $40,000 to hire a company to demolish the warehouse on the old state Department of Transportation barn property off VanDuzee Street.

He said the building had become a safety hazard and it had to go.

The project was funded from his office’s budget for blight removal and demolition. Every year, money is set aside for commercial buildings or residential properties that have to be torn down when “an emergency situation” arises, he said.

City Manager Sharon A. Addison appropriated $50,000 for such demolitions in her proposed $52 million budget. On Monday night, City Council members will be asked to approve the 2013-14 spending plan.

“It might be enough,” Mr. McWayne said, adding it will depend on how many buildings have to be town down. “It might not be enough.”

The past year has been a busy and costly one in regard to demolitions, as the city spent about $238,000 to take down several structures.

Besides the VanDuzee warehouse, three other buildings — the former teen center on Factory Street, a house at 209 Sterling St. and an apartment building at 239 High St. destroyed by arson in May — were demolished for code violations, said city Comptroller James E. Mills. The bills for those four totaled about $130,000.

The High Street apartment building involved an unusual situation because it was heavily damaged by the fire. The city still hopes to recover the more than $70,000 cost from the insurance money owner Ricky Frazier had collected, Mr. Mills said.

The city also completed two other demolitions, of decrepit buildings acquired from owners who failed to pay back taxes, at a cost of nearly $108,000. They were a tattoo shop at 606 Factory St. and a multifamily residence at 123 E. Lynde St.

In the coming year, the city may have to demolish an old warehouse at 160 Main Ave. that has a collapsed roof, Mr. McWayne said.

As for Monday’s meeting, council members will consider a spending plan that carries a 2 percent tax levy increase and a 1.2 percent tax rate increase. A budget hearing will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the third-floor council chambers at City Hall, 245 Washington St.

As proposed, the spending plan would increase the amount to be raised by taxes to about $7.5 million. The projected tax rate would be $7.29 — or less than a penny increase — per $1,000 of assessed value. Council members must approve a budget by June 1.

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