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Fairmont wants to stay ahead of possible blight

June 28, 2012
Gary Andersen, Lee Smith , Fairmont Sentinel

Fairmont City Council has been working with property owners to clean up some blighted properties around town. The goal is to remove the eyesore, the potential safety hazard and to get the properties in question back to being productive, tax-paying sites. This week, the council authorized reimbursing a pair of property owners who bought dilapidated sites and have been working to improve them. The council will pay $18,400 total for demolition work. The money comes from a $60,000 fund the city set aside for exactly these kinds of projects.

What's the council's reasoning??Blight begets blight. It decreases property values and can make a town appear dingy and dirty. There is also the loss of property tax revenue to local government entities.

On the other hand, just how far should the city - or any city - go in its cleanup efforts? Shouldn't landowners be the ones to pay for demolition and cleanup? The city believes some of the restoration would be unlikely to occur, or would take too long. City administrator Mike Humpal makes the case that Fairmont is ultimately saving money by partnering with property owners and splitting cleanup costs.

Is all of this ideal? Probably not. But as long as the city is careful in its screening process of who it helps and why, there should not be a "loss" of city dollars. This is a standard that is similarly applied when the city decides to aid businesses that are coming to town or seeking to expand here. The city weighs whether to offer tax-increment financing, infrastructure work, low-interest loans or other incentives. The city is not saying, hey, let's help Citizen X because we like him. It is saying let's help Citizen X because it will be good for everyone.



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