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Parkersburg borrowing $500,000 to raze 50 houses

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Efforts to demolish 50 dilapidated houses can begin in May once city officials close on loans for half a million dollars to fund the work.

Mayor Bob Newell said Monday that the closing on the two $250,000 loans from the West Virginia Housing Development Fund will take place at the end of April.

“Then we’ll immediately start going into the list we have,” he said.

That list is still a work in progress, with properties moving on and off of it in the nearly one year since an initial list of more than 80 properties targeted for demolition was released.

Parkersburg City Council, acting as the Urban Renewal Authority, last month approved a checklist for prioritizing which structures will be addressed first.

If a vacant house is a safety hazard due to fire damage, “that’s going to very quickly go to the top of the list,” Newell said.

The mayor said he based the estimate of how many houses could be taken down on an average price of $10,000 each. Some will be lower and some will be higher, he said, especially if the city opts to acquire the property on which the house sits.

“We believe 50” can be done, Newell said. “We hope for more.”

When Newell proposed razing a larger number of houses than usual last year as part of an effort to take a stronger stand against blight, he suggested using $1 million borrowed from local banks and tearing down more than 80 structures.

For various reasons, there was not enough interest from local banks to do that, and $500,000 is the most the Housing Development Fund would loan, he said.

The second loan can be accessed as soon as the money from the first is spent, Newell said.

The loans are to be paid back over three years, with zero percent interest the first two years. City officials hope to pay them back early, before interest starts to accrue.

The money could come from multiple places, including revenue from the new 1 percent municipal sales tax going into effect July 1, Newell said.

In addition to work being done to finalize the list, Newell said it must also be determined whether the city will award a single contract for all the demolitions or get multiple companies involved.

“One contractor trying to get them all down, it may take more time than necessary,” he said. “I don’t mind seeing it spread around a little bit.”

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