The two-year involvement of the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority is starting to turn eyesores into new potential homesites. A quick tour of the city this past week showed ample progress on the LCRA front with a number of former eyesores now gone.
But the question with this citywide effort has always been how much and how fast. We must understand that even though the city is spending time and money to remove these problem properties, every day more properties near the stage where they are candidates for LCRA removal. In other words, can we remove deteriorating properties faster than more properties are added to the list?
Another issue that we must soon face is the question of expanding the area targeted by LCRA. Currently, some potential problem areas fall outside of the defined area targeted for improvement. A careful examination will likely expand that target area which obviously will bring more properties into the formula.
I'll admit I was naive and uneducated when the property removal program began. I assumed the timeframe to remove an abandoned house was much faster than is actually the case. No one is to fault - it just takes more time to remove an old house than I had imagined. And at the same time, lazy landlords and poor tenants combine to move more properties toward the removal list each and every day. This is a struggle we'll have to address in the near future.
The city is currently working on the upcoming budget and we hope that full funding for LCRA's removals is included. Voters here gave overwhelming support to the property improvement plan and we expect the city to recognize that support.
On another interesting note, a prominent businessman approached me this week and said he had contacted five other residents who were each willing to put $3000 into an account to help hasten the problem property removal. It's that type of citywide effort - both public and private - that is sorely needed.
That quick city tour this week also showed a number of abandoned and burned properties that still remain a health concern and obvious eyesore. I won't question the selection process by LCRA but I have to wonder why these obvious properties are not higher on the removal list.
We've been waiting for this summer for a number of years. With good weather and adequate funding, this should be the summer when we all see visible signs of the LCRA efforts. We hope to see several abandoned houses removed this summer as part of the LCRA effort. And if the pace of removal does not match our expectations, we will question the city and the LCRA to find out why.
Sikeston is in a race. Those who want to see our city improve are racing against those landlords and tenants who choose to ignore their responsibilities. It's a race against time and against a limited budget. What is truly needed now is for the citizens of Sikeston to remind our city council and the members of the LCRA that we expect progress and we expect to win this race.