Planned Demolition Equals Community Improvement

One Step Up students at Project HOPE at the Lincoln School in North 10th Street in Lamar, hosted members of the city council and other department heads, to a noon lunch this past Friday, February 6.

Emily Nieschburg of LiveWell Prowers County, noted that many of the students who were taking part in the Photo Voice program, photographing scenes from around Lamar to post to the One Step Up website, were photographing a number of derelict houses around the community.  As the students had been working a their own for a beautification program for the town, the Lamar City Council and others from the city were invited to discuss some of the student’s aims over lunch.

“What do you feel or think about when you pass by a deserted house?” was the question put to the students and council members as well.  Many of the student responses ranged from feeling sad at the sight, to how the house had become abandoned, to a place where trash accumulates or sometimes, it just felt, ‘scary’.  The students noted one house in particular which was across the street from their student garden, in a cul-de-sac along North 10th Street.  Long abandoned from appearances, the yard had been covered in overgrown weeds, discarded beer bottles, no windows or working door and the interior of the small dwelling would give Dracula second thoughts about spending a night there.

City Administrator, John Sutherland, distributed colored pages from the city’s Master Plan for Trails and Parks, stating, “This is an overview of how that particular area of town would be improved, including more grassy areas and an upgrade and expansion for the city’s tree farm.”  The students all took note, detailing exactly where their problem house was in relation to the improvement project.  Pat Mason, Director of Public Works, told the students that he and Kenny Davis, a Code Enforcement Officer, had been in touch with the local owner of the house in question.  “He is pretty sure there is no asbestos in the house, so that would lower the cost of excavation,” he explained, adding that using city equipment, it would be a day long project and would cost around $3-$4,000 and the work could being within five to six months.

Following lunch, as the house was being viewed, Sutherland said it would be a benefit to the neighborhood if the land north of the house, to the tree farm could be seeded for grass to establish more greenery for the area.  “We’ve had Ken Davis take stock of similar houses in the town, so we can make a more accurate assessment of the costs involving demolitions.  Rick Akers, Parks and Recreation Department Director, said in response to some other beautification suggestions, “We’re going to add some color to the North Side Park and put in some decorative and painted trashcans.”  The student suggestions included clearing dirt paved playgrounds of broken bottles and rocks, planting more grass in some areas and helping water the planters that line Main Street in Lamar.

Nieschburg took the occasion to present a learning lesson for the students, that their voices can be heard and their ideas and opinions count for something as a citizen, no matter their age.  She said later, “It took a lot for these youngsters to stand in front of an audience of adults and other kids and just speak.  When we began a lot of this, we had a lot of kids just declining to talk at all to a group, mostly out of shyness.  They’re learning they have a voice.”

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: BusinesscommunityEconomyEducationEnvironmentFeaturedHealthLamarPolice ReportsProwers CountyPublic SafetyRecreationSchoolUtilitiesYouth


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