The City of Knox is planning to move ahead with its blight elimination efforts. Knox was awarded grant funding from the state in 2014 to buy and demolish homes that were in poor condition, but since then, the project has seen little progress, due in part to trouble the city’s had with filing the required documents required by the grant program.
Mayor Dennis Estok has made blight elimination one of his top priorities since he retook office. He told the City Council Tuesday it’s time to get the program back on track, so no available money’s left on the table. “We’ve had to do a lot of catch-up on that,” he says. “Out of the 10 or 11 houses that we had slated, so far we have got title to six and three [of those] that are ready to be bid out. The other three should be ready here shortly. The other houses, all of them are in limbo. Somebody dropped the ball on the whole program. There’s been houses deleted out with nothing done with them, so between Jeff’s office and my office, we’ve been trying to catch up on all of that.”
At issue now is whether the city will proceed right away with the properties that are ready to go or wait until the other three are officially added to the program. That discussion continued during Wednesday’s Knox Board of Works meeting.
If all six houses can be demolished in the near future, the city will likely meet its goal of spending half of the grant money by February 28. Officials with the program say if that goal can be met, the state might decide to further extend the grant. As it stands, all of the money must be spent by August 25.
Right now, the plan is to start writing up bids for the first three houses, and contact officials at the state level to determine how long it will take to incorporate the other three into the program. In addition to those six properties, the city is still working to finalize acquisitions of a few additional ones. They also hope to add the house at 304 South Main Street back into the program to begin negotiating a purchase of that property.