Don’t sell assets; go after scofflaws
The Budget Commission recently gave the go-ahead to the city Planning Department to find a real estate broker to handle the lease or sale of several city-owned vacant or near-vacant properties. These properties include a few that, to me anyway, hold little value for the city beyond the revenue that their sale might bring to the city coffers. I refer specifically to the former school administration buildings on Burnside and Hoppin Avenues and to a vacant parcel and some property on Bentley Street.
At least two other properties, though, hold instrinsic value for E.P. residents, and I would strongly suggest that we remove them from the list of available properties, at least for the time being. These are the shuttered Fuller Library and the empty lot that formerly housed the Tristam Burgess School.
Although we cannot afford to re-open the Fuller Library now or in the foreseeable future, I would hate to see us lose this little bit of property for what would probably be a very diminished price in this still-recovering economy. The Fuller Library had been a vital and much-appreciated resource for the Kent Heights neighborhood for many years and could well, several years from now, either be reinstated as a branch library or re-purposed as a micro-community center for citizens of all ages to utilize and enjoy.
The Tristam Burgess site is now an open field in an otherwise highly developed area and is used by families, school kids and people with dogs as a place to play and run and just enjoy an expanse of grass. (Note to the people with dogs: Please pick up after your pets!)
Granted, the sale of these parcels could bring in some needed revenue, but I reiterate that the real estate market is still depressed and the city would not realize maximum dollars from their sale now. In addition, there are plenty of private properties currently on the market, and adding more to the mix won’t help.
I recommend that, rather than sell off assets that won’t easily be replaced when we need them down the line, we instead go after the scofflaws who have failed to pay their full share of property taxes and water bills.
I’m not talking about property owners who have fallen behind with their bills because of unfortunate circumstances such as illness or unemployment or who are on fixed incomes. Nor am I speaking of the formerly tax-exempt non-profits who are reeling from the sudden imposition of taxes on property they thought or at least hoped was not subject to taxation.
What I am talking about are those few in our city who think, for one reason or another, that they are either above or beyond the law. Go after them. Collect what they owe. I’ll bet we could at least come up with the $10,000 that the Library Director requested from the Budget Commission to extend the Sunday hours of the two remaining libraries, which, for lack of available revenue, the Commission had to table to another day.