My turn

Building department clearing the way to a safer city

2013-01-25T00:00:00Z Building department clearing the way to a safer cityBy Steve Segura Times Columnist nwitimes.com
January 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The mission of the East Chicago Building Department is to abate blighted, vacant and abandoned structures and promote and maintain a safe and desirable living environment, in efforts to improve property values and enhance the quality of life for all residents of the city.

Mayor Anthony Copeland recognizes the importance of removing abandoned and unsafe properties from the neighborhood. “Unmaintained properties are a threat to surrounding home values and public safety," he said. "Often they are structurally unsound, vacated havens for criminal activity and a risk for first responders.”

Some structures contain contaminants, such as asbestos, lead-based paint and biological hazards, industrial waste, oil, PCBs or chemicals.

“As Building Commissioner for the past two years and a resident of East Chicago, I am very excited to be part of carrying out the mayor’s vision and moving forward with the demolition of the many blighted, vacant and abandoned structures throughout our city," Building Commissioner Winna Guzman said.

The city has identified approximately 400 abandoned properties. Removing properties takes time, resources and money.

Mayor Copeland has led the charge by bringing the building department, city resources and funding from the East Chicago Redevelopment Department together to make this achievable.

There are many challenges to removing these properties, but they are not insurmountable. Currently, 40+ unsafe buildings are set for demolition this year, and the city anticipates additional properties will be added as funding becomes available.

“We would like to invite everyone to take a drive down Broadway Street in the Harbor," Executive Director of Redevelopment Maria C. Becerra said. "We want you to witness the impact of the demolitions in progress and ongoing within the North Harbor Community.

"This compliments the new construction of town homes and the new senior building, scheduled to open in February of 2013. The city envisions this as the new gateway to the lakefront.”

The city has established an Unsafe Building Fund and  fees collected from annual rental registrations, special assessment liens and/or other appropriations shall be deposited into this fund. These monies shall be designated and used to carry out the purposes of the Unsafe Building Law.

Also, rental registration has significantly grown due to the diligence of the building department. This registration information assists the city in being more efficient in its fire, health and building code enforcement endeavors to protect the health, safety and general welfare of the citizens of East Chicago. Often, the information is shared with first responders to help residents or when a board-up is needed.

Registration can be completed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Registration forms and requirements are available at the building department office or on the City’s website at www.eastchicago.com

Normal hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 4444 Railroad Ave.

For more information, call (219) 391-8294.

Steve Segura is the East Chicago multimedia director. The opinions expressed are his own. He can be reached at ssegura@eastchicago.com.

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