Hurry up then wait in Belleville

March 18, 2014 

Remember Belleville's rush to buy the Loflin Furniture building at the foot of Signal Hill? The city moved so quickly that it didn't get the property appraised before the City Council spent $159,000 to buy it.

That was January 2013. The plan was to demolish the building and remove a magnet for loiterers, trash dumpers and other undesirable characters.

"Sometimes it's environmental factors that affect criminal behavior," Police Chief Bill Clay said at the time. "It helps to knock down potential problems."

Mayor Mark Eckert, who was running for re-election in a tight three-way race, also pushed for the purchase then: "Based on the way it looks and how it was cared for, it was an important piece of property to take a hold of to stop it from becoming a nuisance property."

Now more than a year later, the building sits vacant with chains across the front door. Eckert said the city keeps a weekly watch to ensure the building stays secure and the outside clean. The city could have done that much without buying the building and saved taxpayers $159,000.

The mayor said the city has had too many projects this fiscal year to demolish the building. He hopes the city will get to it next fiscal year.

The way proponents talked in January 2013, it sounded like demolition was on a fast track. That urgency exhibited before the election apparently no longer exists.

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