Council approves demolition of three vacant houses

Citing previous break-ins and an ongoing concern over possible future liability issues, the Cambridge City Council has approved the demolition of three vacant houses that sit on property owned by the city.

City Public Works Director Todd Schwab told the council two of the houses, located at 517 1st Avenue East and 105 Cypress Street South, were on property purchased by the city in anticipation of the Highway 95 expansion project. Those properties were paid for using the grant money the state allocated to the city in order to pay for expenses the city incurred in order to expedite the acquisition of properties along Highway 95 that would be impacted by the project. All of those properties were vacant and for sale at the time the city purchased them, so eminent domain wasn’t utilized.

The third house is located at 345 4th Avenue NE. That property was purchased by the city in anticipation of the proposed light rail project that has yet to come to fruition.

The total cost of demolishing the three houses will be $26,300, with the work being awarded to DW Companies LLC, who was the lower of the two bids. The funds will be taken from the EDA Administration Fund.

The council approved the demolition on a 3-1 vote, with Lisa Iverson not present and Bob Shogren voting nay. Shogren stated he didn’t want the city to spend its own money on the Highway 95 expansion project and he would rather let the houses stay vacant until the state started the project, which would result in the state paying for the demolition.

Mayor Jim Godfrey countered that because the vacant houses are owned by the city, that leaves the city vulnerable to any liability issues associated with them, and he would rather pay money to demolish them now rather than risking possibly paying even more money in the future.

Odds and ends

In other action, the council:

Approved awarding Adam and Caitlin Schorer $10,000 from the Downtown Grant Fund for the external remodeling of the building at 144 2nd Ave. SE. According to the owners, they plan on remodeling the building in order to rent it out for commercial space. The Downtown Grant Fund was created to offer businesses within downtown Cambridge up to $10,000 in money they don’t have to repay in order to make external improvements to a building. In approving the application, Mayor Godfrey complimented the Schorers for using local contractors to do the work.

Approved bids for the irrigation, sod, and fence top caps in association with the Sandquist Park expansion. Those bids had not been received prior to the council’s approving the expansion project as a whole, but according to Schwab, the bids came in under the anticipated costs. As he has done in the past for this project, Shogren voted nay.

Approved hiring Tina Davidson as acting Assistant Manager and Jessica Heffner as Night Manager for Northbound Liquor.  

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