Dust was flying in the area of Southwest 2nd and Filmore Street Monday as Wagoner Public Works crews began the process of demolishing and clearing seven single family dwellings from property involved in an abatement case.
The unoccupied structures, owned by the same person, were declared as dilapidated at the May 6 Wagoner City Council meeting. An abatement is a corrective action for any kind of violation, ranging from mowing grass to a dilapidated structure.
“When I took over code enforcement, I had complaints of high grass (in these locations). I was able to contact the owner and they did mow, but it’s been a continuing issue with mowing and cleanup,” said Gordon Goins, city inspector. “The owner did take down two structures last year of his own accord because they were in such bad shape.”
Goins said when police asked him to check on one of the properties, he found it to be an uninhabitable structure although it was occupied at the time with no utilities. At that point the city proceeded with an abatement process, giving the property owner 10 days to start cleaning it up.
When that did not happen, contractors came in to somewhat clean up the area with mowing and brush hogging.
Unfortunately, the situation did not get better.
“This year, the property has become a real issue with the homeless and drug users, and we received complaints upon that,” Goins continued. “We did the letter process again. The owner did communicate a little bit, but never took action. He was asked to be at the May council meeting and did not attend. That’s when he was given 90 days to clear the structures because they were declared as dilapidated.”
“His 90 days are up and we’re going to complete the council’s wishes,” he added.
City Planner Taylor Tannehill said the properties have been boarded up since the middle of May, and had been broken into a couple of times since then. Wagoner
Police have been going by to check on the properties from time to time.
Before demolition began Monday, authorities went in to clear the property and make sure no one was inside.
It will take approximately a week to 10 days to complete the project. Tannehill said while the process is costly, the city will have the ability per state statute to recoup some of the cost associated with the cleanup.
A major cost is dumpsters. Upwards of 30 dumpsters, costing $350 apiece, will be required to clean the area. This does not include man hours.
“We will have the ability to file a lien on the property, and those liens are co-equal to the property taxes. When the property owner goes in to pay their taxes, they’ll be required to pay that as well,” he said. “In a perfect world, you should get all the actual cost to include administration, labor, material and equipment. But in some instances, you’re not seeing your recouped cost for years.”
Tannehill reminds when a dilapidated structure exists and is open for anyone to walk into, it is a dangerous situation and an “attractive nuisance”.
“We all know kids will go run into a building to see what’s in it. That happens,” Tannehill said. “But you also have people looking for a place to live overnight. They are building open fires to keep warm, start fires and require the fire department to respond. It’s a very serious matter.
“People who own these structures need to be aware of that — there is liability on people for if something happens.”
Other violations besides dilapidated housing that is cause for concern are high grass (12 inches or higher) and uncared for items in the front yard such as washing machines, trash, couches and junk.
“You will have your problem property owners and absentee owners, but this is no more of a problem here in Wagoner than anywhere else,” Tannehill noted.
In 2017, Tannehill and Goins drove the entire city and rated every structure in the municipality, and these dilapidated structures were a part of that survey. Tannehill said they were a high priority in 2017 and did not get any better.
In 2018, 10 property owners city-wide voluntarily demolished their structures without being approached.
City officials encourage residents to call city hall to file any concerns or complaints about a property.
“We can’t be everywhere, and no one knows your neighborhood like you do,” Tannehill concluded.
Goins reminded if citizens of Wagoner will do their due diligence on their properties, it would be a help.
“I don’t pick on anyone, I pick on everyone. I will eventually get to you,” he said.