The Starke County Plan Commission is cracking down on enforcement of unsafe and blighted buildings. President Dennis Estok told the county commissioners they’ve restructured their enforcement letters and means of taking owners to court but still have a backlog of structures that need to be torn down.
“You’ve got to have some seed money, because if they don’t do it you can go in there and take care of these unsafe structures,” Estok said. “Then basically what you do is you fine them, and you bill them. If they don’t pay the bill, then you put a special assessment on their taxes. You wind up getting the property, and then you re-sell the property to try to recoup some of your cost.”
Estok says the county won court cases in 2006 and 2008 requiring buildings to be torn down, and they are still standing. Without money to enforce the demolition orders, Estok says the county’s options are limited. He asked for $20,000 from the commissioners’ EDIT fund to get the process started. His request received unanimous approval.
“It’s a small investment to at least put us in the right direction,” Estok said. The plan commission has identified 120 blighted structures and plans to address the most unsafe with the available funds. The council still has to appropriate the money to the commissioners’ EDIT fund before any money can be moved into the Plan Commission’s unsafe building enforcement fund.