Codes fronting mowing bill for neglected homes

City tax dollars are being put into paying companies to mow lawns of properties abandoned by their owners.

The average cost to the city Bureau of Codes to hire land maintenance companies per year is $13,000, according to Joseph Gerardi, city codes administrator.

He informed the city blighted properties review board about the cost Tuesday. Gerardi said he’d rather have to purchase the land and make something taxable from it.

The board, including Phil Preziosi, chairman, and city Councilman Joel Henderson, who sat in, were interested in an update on an article that appeared Tuesday in the Sun-Gazette.

The codes department is working closely with constables who will be serving arrest warrants on landlords and property owners who refuse to pay building code violations and don’t answer the codes officials’ attempts to repair blight after one year or more.

Some on the list of 12 have brushed off Gerardi and others since 2004.

Gerardi said at least two of those on a list of a dozen released publicly Tuesday called him after seeing the article.

“They won’t be arrested,” he said, but they have agreed to work with codes on fixing up buildings.

Gerardi said besides arrests another means of getting blight removed is to go through the process of claiming the lien on the properties.

“Right now, I don’t have that money, and the money I have is going into maintaining properties, such as hiring people to mow them,” he said.

The department has $30,000 budgeted for a program called “Clean and Seal,” which allows for one demolition of a property per year and then can use funds for repairing a broken down property, Gerardi said.

Gerardi said while the dozen on the list are there, his department has reduced 188 properties blighted eight years ago down to a handful each year.

They included mostly residential properties, and very few commercial ones, he said.