Okeechobee County to demolish abandoned houses

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee County Board of Commissioners agreed Thursday to move forward with steps to demolish three abandoned, non-homestead homes. These properties have been deemed to be a nuisance to the community as well as a health and safety hazard.

This dilapidated abandoned house, at 3632 N.W. 21st Ave., is one of the three structures to be demolished by the county. Special to the Lake Okeechobee News.

Beth Albert, code enforcement officer, said the code enforcement office has compiled a list of the most egregious code-violating properties in the county.

She said they have worked with willing property owners as much as possible to bring other properties into compliance.

“A lot of our properties did come into compliance during the amnesty program,” she explained.

This dilapidated abandoned house, at 3633 N.W. 21st Ave.. is targeted for demolition. Special to the Lake Okeechobee News.

She suggested the county commission now start with the worst non-homesteaded properties on the code violations list and do some demolitions, taking care of the blighted structures first.

County Administrator Robbie Chartier said the county code states that if a structure is an immediate threat to health, safety and welfare, the county can demolish the structure.

Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs said the county has about $25,000 in the budget. He asked how far that money will go.

Commissioner David Hazellief said they could probably demolish the abandoned, dilapidated structures for about $5,000 each.

“I think we would bring in a dump truck and a backhoe and haul it to the landfill,” he said. He suggested they put the demolitions out for bid by local contractors. He said he has reviewed the three at the top of the blighted properties list.

“There’s no salvaging to these properties at all,” he said.

“I’d also like to make sure that we attach these properties so that we can be reimbursed,” he said.

County Attorney John Cassels said whether or not the county can recoup the cost of demolition may depend on other encumbrances on the property. “Don’t expect us all of the sudden to jump over a bank loan or a lien,” he said.

“The main thing is to get the blight out of the neighborhood,” said Commissioner Hazellief.

“Take the most serious ones in the county and get started,” he said. “Let’s get started today.”

“Let’s take these three and start with them,” said Chairman Burroughs. “Do your due diligence or whatever you’ve got to do on these particular three to make sure we stay within the body of the law.”

In other business, the county commissioners accepted the donation of a residential lot at 827 S.E. 38th Terrace. Commissioner David Hazellief suggested the county allow the sheriff’s office and fire department use a structure on the property for training before demolishing it.

This dilapidated nuisance house, at 9211 S.E. 59th Dr., is targeted for demolition. Special to the Lake Okeechobee News.

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