On Hand, City Council hold confab about housing

Posted May 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm

The Miller City Council held a special meeting with On Hand Development Corporation’s housing committee on May 7 to talk about housing problems facing the city and surrounding area.

Miller has a shortage of available housing for potential owners or renters, and an overabundance of dilapidated, unused buildings. On Hand and the City would like to free up lots to make way for additional housing.

Present to add information were Craig Johnson with “Grow Spink,” which is Spink County’s economic development group; Jim Becker with the Governor’s House project; and Mike Knutson, coach with the Home Address program, who has been giving direction regarding Miller’s housing questions.

The meeting stemmed from a housing study taken some months ago. LaDonna Wharton, executive director of On Hand Development Corporation, said when a community meeting was held in March to hear about the housing study, the recurring comment was the need to dispose of dilapidated buildings.

She said the first step in the process was to meet with City officials and “get on the same page.”

Craig Johnson of Redfield says he has been involved not only in Redfield but in other communities, in acquiring properties that have dilapidated structures, and acquiring the land for new homes/buildings. He said Redfield has been working on the “cleanup” project for some nine years, and has taken down between 30 and 50 structures. In town, Redfield’s city crew does the demolition, whereas a contractor removes out of town structures. They are also involved with the State’s “Spruce Up” program, and they have used an outside “code enforcer” rather than in-town personnel.

He suggested that the City of Miller start small, bring a code enforcer in, if need be, and come to an agreement with the City about what it can/will do, such as mow the lots, have City ordinances in force that deal with dilapidated buildings, etc. And, he stressed, procedures must be followed, and it takes time and patience.

Regarding Governor’s Houses, Becker said funding is available to help with purchases. He noted, for instance, a school district could purchase a Governor’s House to be used by district employees, which can be an incentive when trying to attract people to the area.

Some discussion was held about how to enforce ordinances dealing with derelict properties, condemning properties, and evictions.

Johnson suggested making a list of properties in poor condition, and begin with only a couple of properties. He advised keeping the City “in the loop,” but said there are many restrictions within City government, and On Hand might be wise to pursue an outside “code enforcer.”

Mayor Ron Blachford commented, “All of us have to be on the same page,”

Johnson said Miller is “doing a lot of things right,” and has a good reputation with area communities. To proceed with a clean up of derelict buildings and making way for new homes is a step in the right direction for a strong community, he said.