The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

April 19, 2013

Dilapidated houses draw comments at ward meeting

BY DENNIS BARTLOW
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — Dilapidated houses came under attack from residents in Wards 1 and 2 Thursday night.

"Two houses on my block are very dangerous," said Terry Lake, a resident of the 400 block of Oak Street. "Kids are playing in them, and they built a fire. These houses need to come down. It is very scary."

Trina Perkins, who lives in Lahr Street between Jackson and Washington streets, said her area feels like a ghost town.

"I believe in cleaning up the my area," she said. "Can we improve our little area? It is just awful down there."

Lake and Perkins were among about 20 residents who attended the meeting in the First Presbyterian Church’s community room.

"That area once had a lot of homes," public works director Doug Ahrens said of the Lahr Street area. "As the economy recovers, we hope we can revitalize it. It is a challenge."

Public Safety Director Larry Thomason urged people to call 911 when they see a problem such as the children playing in homes on Oak Street.

"If you see it, tell us about it," he said.

Thomason also said the police are trying to put a stop to the graffiti on public and private properties.

"We want to get graffiti removed as quickly as possible,” he said.

Ahrens said program compliance personnel will be visiting neighborhoods on a more regular basis at various times to check on structures.

Cheryl Carlson of the 100 block of Edwards Street questioned the demolition of buildings.

"I have heard a lot about blight tonight," she said. "Is the plan to demolish old buildings or is to restore old houses?"

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said the properties discussed are beyond repair.

"We need to get to properties before that happens," he said "The properties we are demolishing now, no one could bring up to code."

David Schnelle, city engineer, said the city and residents need to be proactive.

"We need to develop strategies of how we can help property owners," he said.

Two residents of the 500 block of South Buchanan Street complained about a homeowner at Buchanan and Wayne streets working on lawn mowers in his garage late at night and also selling them from his front yard.

"It is a zoning issue," Eisenhauer said. "You can sell your own personal things." The mayor said the city is investigating the situation.

Roberta Allen asked about the size of the overpass that is replacing the Fairchild Subway and was told it would have larger lanes and a wide sidewalk for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Ward 1 Alderman Kevin Davis said his goal is more rehabilitation in the ward, especially around Carver Park.

"Maybe we can get senior housing or some student housing for the college," he said. "We need more businesses out east. We need to look at what our strengths are."

Ward 1 Alderman Rickey Williams praised the mayor’s reorganization of departments.

"We need to be more strategic," he said. "Let’s finish up downtown first. I am pleased at the direction we are going."

Eisenhauer was pleased with the ward meetings. Thursday’s was the final session for this go around.

“Every one of them was different," he said. "The questions were different."