Down for the count

Drew Butler

Condemned houses are not just unsightly, they often also represent potential danger for their entire neighborhood. In addition to typically being structurally unsound, they can also attract vagrants and be used for other illegal activities. To combat this, the City of Ardmore regularly demolishes structures determined to hold the most potential danger.

Community Development Director Jessica Scott said there are currently 265 condemned houses in Ardmore. One is currently under demolition, and six more are set to go in the very near future. After those seven are gone, the Community Development Department will look at the list to see which ones need to go next.

“Our number one priority when choosing which property gets demolished is safety,” Scott said. “Public safety is this department’s number one concern in everything that we do, so we try to get the ones down that pose the biggest risk.”

Scott said the city will always demolish as many houses as the budget allows, but their goal is around 50 per year. In 2019 they more than met this goal.

“The city budget runs on the fiscal year from July 1 to June 30, and we usually get about $30,000 to use for demolitions,” Scott said. “We keep two demolition counts going, one from January to December and one for the fiscal year.”

Scott said, 53 houses were demolished during the calendar year of 2019. Twenty-two structures have come down since the fiscal year began in July, and Scott hopes to more than double this number by the end of June. The only potential hindrance comes in the form of a recent increase in the cost of demolition.

“One of the situations that we’ve recently run into is the place that takes our concrete can no longer take any pieces bigger than two feet by two feet — which is really small when you’re talking about housing foundations, piers, sidewalks and front steps,” Scott said. “So now our contractor has to break the concrete up smaller which is an additional cost for us because of the extra time it takes to break it down.”

Scott said that demolitions that once cost around $1,000 can now cost between $1,500 and $2,000 because of the extra work involved in breaking down the concrete. This extra work also limits the number of potential demolition contractors that can do the job because not everyone has the equipment needed to break concrete into such small pieces.

“It was unexpected, but I understand why they had to do it,” Scott said. “But we’ve overcome it and we’re moving forward. We’re taking down as many as we can and we’ve got some really good demo contractors who work with us.”