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Cheektowaga takes new action against dilapidated buildings

Cheektowaga took another step Monday night toward demolishing some of the town's worst vacant properties.

Town Board members set up a special account to be used solely for building demolition and transferred $120,000 into it. The town had some extra money because it has received more money than expected from building permits.

"We have already started the process," said Council Member Alice Magierski. "Our Housing Department and our code enforcement officer have identified at least 15 to 16 properties within the town that are candidates to be demolished."

The town also knows the first three structures it wants to tear down, and they have been vacant for five, seven and 10 1/2 years, she said. The homes are on Barbara and Wellworth places and Windwood Court, said Thomas Adamczak, supervisor of building inspectors.

The board passed a local law in December making it easier for the town to demolish vacant buildings that have become a nuisance. Now that the demolition fund has been set up, the town can pay for title searches to the properties, which should be done next month, Adamczak said. The owner will be notified, and public hearings will be held.

The buildings will be checked for asbestos, and bids for demolition will be sought.

"We don't know if there is asbestos. If there is none, the cost will be smaller," he said.

The cost of demolition will be put on the tax bill of the property owner. If the owner does not pay the taxes, the bill is turned over to Erie County, which pays the taxes to the town, and the money would be redeposited in the demolition fund. The county then tries to collect the money from the property owner.

Adamczak said the three buildings would be down this year.

"Any way you can get those down -- it's important," said Debbie Kubiak of Cedargrove Heights, who went to Albany in March with another resident seeking state help in ridding the town of vacant buildings.

Town officials said they are meeting with the director of Erie County real property tax services to discuss the problem and are seeking grants to add to the demolition fund.

"Vacant lots don't help the Town of Cheektowaga," Supervisor James J. Jankowiak said. "I'm hesitant to just start knocking down houses until we have a plan."

Also Monday night, the board waived the $200 administration fee for three taxpayers who bought property and were assessed charges for cleanups done by the town on the property under the former owners. The cost of the cleanups was not waived.

"The individuals who purchased the properties had no way of knowing by public record that we had assessed against these properties substantial cleanup charges," Council Member Jeff Swiatek said. "This was a very unique set of circumstances, and we are taking steps to make sure it does not recur."

The town now assesses a lien against the property when it does a cleanup, which becomes a matter of public record, he said.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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