OAKLAND CITY — Oakland City Common Council hopes to take down two blighted properties on Main Street, with assistance from the state.

The city started the process to apply for a Community Development Block Grant in the Blight Clearance Program from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural affairs for the demolition of 167 and 242 North Main Street, with the first of two public hearings held Tuesday night.

The Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana will be guiding the city through the process estimated to close in July 2020.

The proposal will be submitted Oct. 15 in preparation for a site visit with OCRA to take place that same month or in November. The next public hearing will take place at one of the Oakland City Common Council meetings in November.

During the public hearing, Mayor Hugh Wirth said they are attempting to have assistance to remove both buildings, now that the demolition no longer requires approval from the State Historic Preservation Officer.

“That gives us more of a free hand in some of those buildings that can no longer be repaired or restored,” Wirth said.

The city seeks $200,000 in CDBG funds for construction costs. The city will provide $25,000 in local matching funds from the city's share of economic development income tax revenue to pay for the environmental review and grant administration.

Wirth said the 243 North Main Street property has caused all kinds of issues for the city and its neighboring business. “We’ve since taken ownership of that building in order to get a handle on it,” he said.

The optometrist next door had an issue with a raccoon entering their business and tearing up a room. The raccoon entered from the 243 building, but they could not determine exactly how it entered.

“That’s when we took action to stop that from happening again, for fear of losing that business,” Wirth said.

At 167 North Main Street, the city is dealing with flooding of the structure and a missing roof.

“There’s just no way that building could come back,” Wirth said. “We’ve got an agreement with the owner to place that in possession of the city with the contingency of having funding for demo.”

Wirth said that both of the buildings are eyesores, and it would be better for the health and safety of everyone in the city for them to come down.

Oakland City resident Bob Wilson has no objection to the buildings coming down but asked the council Tuesday if there was a possibility he could have a walkthrough of 243 before it came down.

“243 is where I grew up,” Wilson said. “It was my mom and dad’s store building.”

Building Commissioner Darrell Corn said he would have concerns about anyone entering the structure.

“You would not want anybody in that building to walk through,” Corn said. “It’s so dilapidated.”

Corn said the front is locked, but that would be the only possibility if they were to enter. The back has been boarded up and Corn said you wouldn’t want to walk in 10 feet from that direction. Even if they could gain entrance through the front door, Corn said he and the mayor would need to take a look first before allowing anyone in.

Wilson said he would appreciate anything they could do, but he would understand if he couldn't go in.

“I’ll just keep an eye on it,” he said, “and I’ll sit across the street and watch them tear it down.”

Corn said he is in 100 percent agreement with the mayor that the buildings need to come down.

“I have seen these buildings for many, many years,” he said. “I’ve had many, many complaints asking why they haven’t been torn down.”

Projected timeline:

October 2019 - submit proposal

October/November 2019 - site visit with OCRA

November 2019 - second public hearing

Nov. 15, 2019 - submit grant application

December 2019 - notice of grant award

January 2020 - sign and return grant agreement

February 2020 - receive environmental release

March 2020 - finalize bid documents and advertise for construction bids

April 2020 - receive sealed bids for construction, obtain release of funds, award construction contract, hold pre-construction conference

May 2020 - start and complete demolition, receive and disburse final drawdown, submit close-out documents to OCRA.

Those wishing to provide their thoughts on the projects may attend the next public hearing. There are also public surveys regarding the project available at Oakland City Hall.

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