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An abandoned property in Dayton. La Salle County development officials plan to dedicate $50,000 in tax dollars annually to use for cleaning up or seizing abandoned properties for demolition. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
OTTAWA — La Salle County Board leaders plan to budget $50,000 to fuel a new program to condemn or clean up unsightly or abandoned properties.
Development committee members Wednesday approved the La Salle County Department of Environmental Services and Development budget, which included the new tax dollar allotment within a budget category meant for contracting special services.
While state law already gives authority to county governments to condemn properties, development officials are drafting an ordinance that clearly defines what role the county zoning department will play in the process.
The push to create an ordinance was helped after a Dayton man complained of a run-down and potentially dangerous property in his neighborhood that has gone unkempt for years.
Development committee member Mike Kasap (D-La Salle) suggested the county also consider hiring another employee to not only carry out the condemnation ordinance, but perform other needed tasks.
“I think it’s important that we have the manpower,” Kasap said. “Our county is growing and that puts a strain on services.”
Zoning director Mike Harsted said given the county’s delicate financial situation, it would be hard enough for the finance committee to approve the cost of the program, let alone including the cost of a new employee.
He also suggested that his department could handle the extra work.
“We’ll write the fine or ticket, and we can take a deputy with us if we have to,” Harsted said. “But I’ve been to finance before… they’re not going to approve another employee.”
Development chairman Steven Abel (D-Mendota), who also sits on the finance committee, said the condemnation program is going to start small so that a new employee isn’t needed.
“This is like an experiment for us — we don’t even know how it’s going to unfold,” he said.