LIMA — At Tommy Pitts’ house, it’s difficult to forget about the dilapidated house across the street; its burnt roof is constantly peeking over a fence into his backyard swimming pool.
“That right there. It’s just dangerous,” Pitts, a former councilor, said as he pointed at the property at 1206 E. 2nd St., which has stood fire-scarred and hollow since November.
Pitts wants the problem fixed, and he wants the City of Lima to use Community Development Block Grant dollars — federal funds sent to benefit low- to middle-income residents — to demolish it.
Pitts and his neighbors, as well as councilors Jamie Dixon and Derry Glenn, took the initiative to push for such a move Tuesday afternoon, gathering residents of the neighborhood together to make a public statement about the issue.
During the event, Pitts criticized the city administration, including Mayor David Berger, for appropriating federal dollars into neighborhoods without the same needs as the 5th and 6th wards.
“He’s absolutely wrong in how he treats us in the 5th and 6th wards,” Pitts said.
In a similar fashion, Dixon pointed out how the city’s alleged inaction on taking down such dilapidated buildings have created an economic drag on residents of his ward, who find it difficult to secure bank loans due to low property values.
“We’re tired of being second and being treated like second-class citizens,” Dixon said.
As for the City of Lima’s role in CDBG fund allocation, the city administers its CDBG funds through the department of community development, which drafts initial allocation levels on the federal funds depending on who applied.
Funds, however, are limited. In 2019, nonprofits and municipal agencies requested $3.6 million. Only $1 million is available.
For example, the city’s building and zoning department alone requested $1.2 million to tear down 54 deteriorated structures, and they are currently slated to receive a fraction of that request — $90,000.
But while the city sets the fund levels, Lima City Council gets final approval.
“We have council members who have never been in this part of town,” Dixon said. “I’ll even give them a tour of the 5th ward to show them what (residents) are dealing with daily. We have councilors who encourage ride-alongs with law enforcement. Take a ride with your co-councilor.”
In the meantime, residents in the Essex neighborhood will continue to do what they can. Neighbors of the house already mow the vacant lot and work to ensure children don’t frequent the empty house, which is currently being used as a haven for rodents and raccoons.
“I said: ‘I can’t stand it.’ So, I started (mowing),” neighbor Mark Pitts said, who began maintaining the lot in the spring.
“If the money is earmarked for our ward, we want that money,” Mark Pitts said. “They should treat us how we’re supposed to be treated. We’re taxpayers.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.