Spencer Town Council Exploring Options To Clean Up Properties
The Spencer Town Council recently asked Spencer Town Marshal Richard Foutch to compile a list of homes and properties found to be in clear violation of town ordinance and appearing to be in a state of disrepair. While the request has since raised concerns from some local residents, the council attempted to reassure residents during Monday night’s meeting, noting they wish to help citizens with their needs and to clean up the town’s blighted properties by eventually providing additional, affordable housing.
Council president Cynthia Hyde highlighted the ongoing efforts of the Owen County Housing Task Force.
“The task force has worked for some time on developing an affordable housing project and we have had a couple of developers and investors who have offered us assistance in doing that with various types of creative funding,” Hyde explained. “So the first step in seeing what we can do is compiling a housing inventory. The easiest way to quantify that is to look at ordinance violations, because it is pretty specific and you can easily identify the homes that may be vacant, may be foreclosed on or maybe belong to individuals who need a little help through different community groups. So we’re working on an inventory so we can address things comprehensively, both through creative funding opportunities that may exist through private developers and other things as well. We definitely have to be mindful of any public safety issues, so that’s what we’re doing.”
Town attorney Richard Lorenz noted that among the list of properties provided by the SPD, there were several ordinance violations discovered, ranging from vegetation to home disrepair.
“I have turned this over to the building inspector and health department to make a further investigation to see if there are any structural or safety issues,” Lorenz said. “From that research, there will be a letter issued to the specific homeowners, where there is one, because three of those properties are ones where the mortgage company has a foreclosure ready, but it is not foreclosed. We have a property or two that are scheduled for demolition.”
Adam Hall, president of the Habitat For Humanity of Owen County Board of Directors, has approached the council with a partnership proposal.
“The organization has gotten to a point where at the end of last calendar year we were going to wrap it up and were going through the preliminary stages of what that consisted of,” he said. “Gosport then approached us on finishing an existing Neighborhood Stabilization Program. They had two existing homes, they gave those to us and we, in turn, built two more. It has been determined to put everything on hiatus and to see if a spark could be found here in Owen County. The perfect scenario is for the organization to be completely antonymous in Owen County and serve Owen County, not to be merged with a larger affiliate that may not give us the attention we deserve.”
Hall mentioned an upcoming impact study and noted that approximately six additional new homes will be constructed in Gosport in the next several months.
“We’re really on the threshold of breaking out, where we’re going to be sustainable enough to carry on an impact to the Owen community for the next 20 to 30 years,” Hall said. “When we can turn out a house a year on our own, that is our goal. The Spencer Evening World has been unbelievable for us, because of them we have had community support. Our Community Bank got a hold of us and said they want to help... these are the kinds of things the organization needs. So we’re going to do six while we plan a large, comprehensive project in Gosport. My hopes are to all-the-while have a home inside the Spencer town limits in the back of my mind. We would be up there (Gosport) for a couple of years, but that is a good planning time frame.”
Hall said the organization is very interested in a partnership with the Town of Spencer, noting they would be willing to tackle a few properties in need of improvements with little assistance from the Town itself.
In other business, Foutch informed the council of the recent resignation of Jared Myers and David Risk from the reserve department. Foutch said he will compile resumes and revisit the reserve ranks in January. He also mentioned a recent record set by the SPD during its most recent Drug Take-Back event, which netted 125.5 pounds of medication, leading to a designation on the national register of Medicine Chest as a permanent prescription drug collection site.
Lastly, Foutch said the Owen County 4-H Fishing Team is currently working on a winter weather project at the SPD, working on Saturdays to paint a mural inside the department’s garage.
Spencer Waste Water Treatment Plant Superintendent John Hodge later told the council of several maintenance items related to the plant’s six sludge pumps, including a reactor repair approved for $1,854 and a pump replacement totaling $3,857.40; both were approved by 3-0 council votes.
Also related to the sewer department, Lorenz said the new sewer line for Hoosier Energy has been connected and contractor ISI has began pump and haul while lift stations are being installed.
Regarding planning and zoning, the council voted 3-0 to approve four separate requests on behalf of the Bean Blossom Patricksburg Water Corporation and Community Natural Gas to rezone properties on West Hillside Avenue, West Indiana Avenue and in the area of South West and West Clay streets from residential to business, light manufacturing one.
In new business, councilman Jon Stantz said he and members of the Clay County Board of Commissioners and City of Brazil Mayor Brian Wyndham will meet later in November and also in December to determine the next steps to be taken in forming a new solid waste district for Owen and Clay counties.
The council also mentioned a ribbon-cutting ceremony to be held by the Indiana Department of Transportation during the week of November 17 to celebrate the completion of the State Road 46 West project and the new West Franklin Street extension.
“People need to understand what a turn lane is and a turn arrow,” Stantz said of the new four-way intersection.
Foutch said that there have been four traffic accidents at the intersection to date, noting that commuting traffic is not used to the new traffic flow pattern.
“We have seen some very close calls and there will be something serious happen if we don’t address the issue somehow,” Foutch said. “We monitor that intersection every day, but it’s going to take some time to get used to.”
The council agreed to speak with Spencer Street Department Superintendent Larry Parrish to ensure proper signage is in place on behalf of the Town.
The Spencer Town Council will meet again on Monday, November 18, beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the Spencer Municipal Building, located at 90 North West Street. Council members include Cynthia Hyde, Jon Stantz and Dean Bruce.
No commercial reproduction without written consent.
Electronic reproduction of any kind forbidden without written consent.