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Fire department moves ahead with demolitions

BY LAUREN P. DUNCANlduncan@paducahsun.com

The task of reducing the city's list of about 100 homes in need of demolition is a work in progress for the Paducah Fire Department.

An approved contractor completes the actual demolition work, but the fire department is responsible for maintaining the list of structures that need to come down and deciding which ones will go first.

At the beginning of June, Paducah Fire Chief Steve Kyle reported the city had a list of 101 structures in need of demolition. Many of those were dilapidated and foreclosed properties that came into the city's ownership. That number was down from March 2013, when the department compiled the city's first comprehensive list of residential structures in need of demolition and identified 150 structures.

On Thursday, Deputy Fire Prevention Chief Greg Cherry said the list numbered 95.

That doesn't mean the city has only destroyed six structures since early June, but rather as homes are demolished, others have been added to the list.

Cherry said the city tore down four properties in the previous 30 days and another six are set to be demolished in the following month.

The department inspects each home before deciding on demolition. Some of the dilapidated properties become a risk to neighborhoods as they become home to animals, prone to vandalism and sometimes become hazardous to trespassing children.

Not only is it a focus of the city to tear down properties because of their imposing risk, but it's also an incentive to open space for further development. As Paducah has become landlocked and short of space to build new residences, demolition makes new home construction possible.

The fire department also encourages homeowners to demolish properties in disrepair that are not owned by the city. Cherry said five private properties have been torn down in the past week. He said the department will send letters to property owners requesting they either demolish a house or repair it.

"We can try to encourage an owner to tear them down," he said. "We try to prompt them to take care of it."

Cherry said properties scattered throughout the city must be torn down regardless of what neighborhood they're in. He said homes that are most dangerous, such as those with a collapsed roof, come first.

"We're trying to get the worst ones first. We get the ones that are most hazardous and then the ones that are almost as hazardous," he said.

The Paducah City Commission approved close to $200,000 for home demolition this fiscal year beginning July 1.

Cherry said the department seeks to demolish 40 to 45 houses. In fiscal year 2013, at least 30 homes were demolished by the city and 26 were demolished privately.

"We're working our way through the list," he said.

Once homes are demolished, the lots can be opened to future revitalization of neighborhoods. Paducah Planning Director Steve Ervin said the city is currently still concentrating on the Fountain Avenue revitalization.

"At some point ... we could look at broadening our horizons and looking at other areas," he said.

The city contacts owners of properties near demolished houses to inquire if they'd like to purchase the property after the city has completed clearing, Ervin said. All of the city's available properties are also listed on the city's website. Twenty-two properties are currently listed for sale, which range in zoning from light industry to general business and residential.

Contact Lauren Duncan, Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8692 or follow @laurenpduncan on Twitter.

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