East Nashville fire prompts new money for demolition

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 11:24am

It appears a recent East Nashville house fire likely spurred Mayor Karl Dean to request an additional $114,000 be appropriated for the demolition of dilapidated buildings.

A fire earlier this month destroyed a triplex at 316 Wilburn St. and damaged four neighboring houses on the block. Arson has been speculated as the cause.

The fire, which displaced more than 20 residents, fueled immediate anger from District 5 Metro Councilman Jamie Hollin, who pointed out the building had long been targeted by Metro codes to be demolished. Unfortunately, the codes department had already used all its demolition funds for the year.

Last week, Dean requested a supplemental appropriation of $114,000 for the codes department to fund the demolition of 15 buildings throughout the city that are considered public hazards. Included on the “high-priority” list is the triplex at 316 Wilburn St.

“It brought to light the funding issue,” said Bill Penn of Metro codes “[Hollin] was part of the group that went to the mayor to request that we get additional funding in order to take care of more properties on the list.”

Even though the Wilburn Street house had been targeted by the codes department, Penn said it’s the property owner’s responsibility to carry out the demolition.

“A lot of people look at it and say, ‘codes should have torn that down,’ ” Penn said. “Well, codes doesn’t own the property, and unless we have the funds, we can’t do what the law gives us permission to do.”

Hollin called the appropriation “a great start,” but added, “We need to get them all off the list.”

Still, he said he doesn’t understand why the department didn’t ask for demolition funds earlier this year during the council’s mid-year budget review.

“Did they ask for more money to demolish homes?” Hollin said. “I’m pretty sure they didn’t.”