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Build A Better Blackford
 
Build A Better Blackford is a sub committee of the 4 Blackford County Image and Beautification Committee. It is a committee that resulted from a combination of the original committee to identify the problem areas and a project group formed during the first Leadership Academy Class.
 
The mission of Build A Better Blackford is to identify dilapidated or abandoned buildings that detract from the desirability of the community and to facilitate their removal. A related goal is to inform the public of the need to improve the appearance of the community. Achieving these goals will ultimately result in more pleasing neighboringhoods and improved quality of life in addition to increased property values and the ability to attract new investments to the community.
 
Build A Better Blackford has initiated various activities to achieve the above goals. The coalition has inventoried problem areas in Hartford City, Montpelier, and outlying Blackford County. Members work with city officials, county officials, property owners, the county health department and other agencies to insure a cooperative effort. The committee recruits volunteers to physically help speed the process of demolishing useless structures.
 
Membership of the committee has grown significantly as members of the community recognize the need to eliminate unnecessary and unused buildings, either residential or commercial.
 

Organization June, 2011

Steering Committee:

Chairman: Jon Creek – 348-4019 – jcreek34@yahoo.com - Jon schedules and plans the meetings, is always available for contact, keeps abreast of local government action, and sets priorities. He may be contacted for suggestions or questions.

Vice-Chairman:  Kathy Bantz - 348-9037 - kbantz@blackfordcounty.com - Kathy has been involved in county government for several years, knows the county and is a great resource for contacts with governmental agencies.

Demolition Coordinator:

Treasurer: Don (Dick) Smith – 348-1478 – DONALD_SMITH_132@comcast.net – Dick has helped with photographing dilapidated structures as well as his treasurer duties.

Secretary: Don Goetz – 348-0086 – dcgoetz@aol.com – Don has background in property ownership records and property values. He keeps records of current activities and maintains files on properties that need action. Phone calls are welcomed.

Active Members:

Kathy Bantz, Rob Cleveland, John Gaskill, Phyllis Knox, Bobbie Lancaster, Mike Lee, Chris Neel, Carol O’Rourke, John Pendleton, Jerry Poulson, Mike Richardson, Carol Robles, Derrick Shields, Angela Smith, Bernie Sones, Fred Tobey, Cathy Weschke

Local Government Supporters:

Blackford County Commissioners Bob O’Rourke, Harry Pearson, Fred Walker; Hartford City Mayor Dennis Whitesell, Montpelier Mayor Jim McPherson, Sheriff John Lancaster, County Sanitarian Linda Briles, Hartford City Councilman and Board of Works member Scott Confer.

Publication Support:

The “Hartford City News-Times” and the “Montpelier Weekly” are also supporters of the committee and its work.

 

Build A Better Blackford

The Build A Better Blackford Committee is a citizens’ group under the 4Blackford County umbrella. 4Blackford County is a community organization whose mission statement is, “The mission of the 4Blackford County is to improve the quality of life in Blackford County, to increase the pride of current residents and to entice new people and businesses to live and work here”. The Build A Better Blackford is a committee that has evolved from two previous committees, one of which were dedicated to identifying eyesores in the county, and the other a project study determining how to best convince owners, citizens, and governing bodies that everyone benefits when these eyesores are eliminated.

Accomplishments include (1) through work with owners, governmental agencies, and volunteers, we are aware that over 80 useless structures have been removed from Blackford County (including Hartford City, Montpelier and unincorporated areas), (2) we helped Hartford City in its successful effort to obtain a $1,500,000 grant to improve low income housing (24 eyesores have been removed to date, and 7 houses built or rehabilitated through that grant), (3) we have a dedicated group of volunteers to assist owners as needed in their removal of eyesores.  We won a state-wide competition related to community improvement.  We have also received a grant to help our efforts, and there have been regular donations to the Blackford Community Foundation for our work.

In many cases the best route to improve the property value is to remove useless and dilapidated structures. Unfortunately, the removal cost is often more than the vacant land will be worth. This creates the need for innovative approaches. Sometimes the owner will agree to improve the area if someone helps with advice, physical labor, financial support, or a combination of those items. Absentee ownership is a real problem. Some owners cannot be found, sometimes a distant financial institution has obtained ownership, and sometimes a financial institution forecloses on a mortgage but does not obtain ownership because no sheriff’s sale occurs. In these cases, the best approach is neighborhood and community support for local governments to take action. Build A Better Blackford works with the local governments to develop ordinances that can deal with the problem of disinterested owners. The committee supplies speakers and programs to other community groups, such as Kiwanis and Rotary. Everyone needs to know that cleaning up the community will improve all property values and will help encourage employers to locate in Blackford County.

Through the efforts of Build A Better Blackford several steps have been taken for community improvement. A volunteer group has been assembled to provide physical help for demolition. Through a grant obtained in 2008, and with donations from community members, funds are available to partially offset the costs of demolition and lot development. County and city governments have helped these efforts. New ordinances have been written which will be more effective to eliminated unsafe structures in the county. The county’s economic development function has been involved with suggestions and help to determine what is needed to make the community more desirable. Build A Better Blackford worked closely with Hartford City in their successful effort to obtain a $1,500,000 HUD grant to improve housing in a defined neighborhood.

Inactive, disinterested, and absentee owners are now the largest challenge to moving ahead at a realistic pace. Too many years pass before properties are so worthless that taxes are no longer paid and the property ends up in a tax sale. We are looking forward to see the positive effects of the new ordinances in eliminating the community eyesores and changing the attitude about what quality level will be tolerated in the county.



Plans for 2011

Build A Better Blackford will continue to work with government agencies in their efforts to enforce recent ordinances related to the removal of unsafe structures.  This is necessary in the cases of absentee or unresponsive owners.  We are also recruiting move volunteers and investigating the needs in the county to help residents who want to improve their property but don't have the needed resources. 

The County Commissioners held a successful deed sale in January 2011, and we are in the process of helping new owners who want to demolish dilapidated structures on their new property.  The properties are throughout the county, including Montpelier, Dunkirk and Hartford City.  Besides these properties, we are continually reviewing abandoned properties to help determine their best future.  We support all approaches to clean up "junk" accumulations, wherever found in the county.

We also plan to work closely with Hartford City in their efforts to obtain another grant similar to the previous Neighborhool Stabilization Project.  There is continuing involvement with the previous NSP grant properties.

Build A Better Blackford needs the support of all county residents and we are always ready for suggestions and/or questions. We meet at noon on the first Thursday of every month, usually at the Blackford County Annex in Hartford City. The meetings are open to everyone, and we encourage as much participation as possible. Any of the steering committee members who are listed on this web site may be contacted at any time.

Donations for the work of Build A Better Blackford should be made to the Blackford County Community Foundation at 121 N High (765-348-3411). The Foundation should be informed that they are for Build A Better Blackford.





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