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Fort Madison looks to fix hundreds of dilapidated structures

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FORT MADISON, Ia. (WGEM) -- City leaders said there are 400 structures across town that are abandoned, dilapidated and need to be dealt with.

"That sounds like a lot but they need to be dealt with and what we've learned is that they have to be dealt with one at a time, " mayor Matt Mohrfeld said.

He said it's not an unusual problem

"This is an example of what goes in an aging river town," he said. "We have buildings that slowly become blighted and then it reaches a point where the city looks around and says 'Hey, we have to clean up."'

Mohrfeld said that can happen a number of different ways.

"Whether it is saved by a sale, property improvement, community pride and sometimes some nudging by the city," he said.

He said it's already happening all over town.

"I can identify 12 different projects that have come all the way from taking a house that could have been scheduled for demolition and rehabbing it or flipping it to a new owner," Mohrfeld said.

He said a good example of that is the empty lot behind the city cemetery on 15th Street.

Those who live nearby said it used to be a run down trailer park and they're happy to see it gone.

"No running water, no electricity of course," Fort Madison resident Ben Hobbs said. "It was a bad trailer park."

Hobbs said it's nice to see the city getting cleaned up.

"There are kitchen fires and all kinds of other stuff happening in these abandoned houses so it's great that they're doing this," he said.

Hobbs said he has high hopes for the empty space.

"Hopefully something that would give the kids entertainment or something like that," he said.

Mohrfeld said the city council is working on an ordinance that would put an inspection component on abandoned buildings as abandoned buildings are dangerous.

He said 75 percent of the houses that burned down last year were abandoned.

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Blake Sammann

Blake Sammann is a reporter and weekend anchor at WGEM News.

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