St. Clair County to raze more than 33 buildings in East St. Louis

News-DemocratAugust 26, 2013 

AP GRAPHIC

The St. Clair County Board has hired a company to demolish at least 33 structures in East St. Louis.

The board hired MS Mitch Consulting Inc., based in Millstadt, on Monday to demolish the structures on county-owned property. The demolition program was for the "civic betterment of the city of East St. Louis," according to the board-approved agreement.

The county acquired the property from owners delinquent in paying property taxes, according to County Board member Craig Hubbard of O'Fallon. Hubbard, a Republican, is a member of the board's Trustee Committee, which oversees a county program that sells property whose owner is behind on paying taxes.

The county has tried unsuccessfully three or more times to auction the properties now selected for demolition, Hubbard said.

Hubbard said he inspected some of the properties and the empty structures become a haven for illegal drug use and homes for stray dogs.

"It's bad for neighborhoods because the atmosphere is bad, and it's bad for kids in the neighborhood," Hubbard said. "If we can get them down to level ground, it will improve them. I wouldn't want a derelict house right next to my home."

The company will lead the St. Clair County demolition program and be paid $450 per structure demolished. Taxing districts, such as the city of East St. Louis, will be responsible for the cost of clearing the sites in their district.

The contract states Mitch Consulting will earn at least $15,000 within the first year. The company is headed by Mike Mitchell, who retired as director of the county's Building and Zoning Department in April.

The company is now responsible for inspecting structures as designated by the county, demolish the structure, remove related debris, and then grade and seed the land with clean fill dirt.

The county is also seeking bids in a separate project for the demolition of 15 derelict structures in eight local communities, including East St. Louis. The other cities include East Carondelet, Collinsville, Caseyville, Lebanon, O'Fallon, Belleville and Lenzburg.

"Those demolitions are a lot more complicated because they involve property owners whereas the property in East St. Louis is trustee property," County Administrator Dan Maher said. "We know who owns it. We don't have to do a title search or do other information gathering."

Those properties are part of the county's regular effort to demolish abandoned structures, such as a burnt out home, after receiving complaints from neighbors. The property owners are given the opportunity to clean up their property but if they refuse the county seeks bids to clear the site.

In other news, the board approved spending about $181,000 for the construction of an access road and trail at the Engelmann Farm. The 143-acre historic farm along Shiloh Station road is being turned into a public park. The walking trail, which cost about $50,000, must still be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice before construction can begin.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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