Saint John’s city manager is looking at whether the cash-strapped city can set aside more money to reduce the number of derelict buildings.
Ward 3 Coun. Donnie Snook brought forward a motion Monday night asking for sufficient resources to deal with the problem he describes as dangerous eyesores.
“We need to move sooner than later,” Snook said during the second meeting of the newly-elected council. “People are fearful.”
Vacant buildings are “routinely used for criminal activity,” he said.
“They are fire hazards in communities. They also leave our communities looking in ruins. The streetscape is absolutely deplorable when you have neighbourhoods littered with these boarded-up buildings,” said Snook, who has raised the issue before.
“We’ve worked hard to get new legislation passed in this city to get tougher on vacant and derelict buildings, and it’s only effective when we dedicate the right dollars to getting it done,” he said.
The city is currently monitoring about 100 abandoned buildings.
But arsonists have torched six of them in the past three months.
The latest fire, on Victoria Street in the city’s north end, left seven people homeless after it spread from a vacant building to an adjacent apartment building.
The previous council had set aside money to remove 15 derelict buildings a year, but cut it back to eight in the 2012 budget as it wrestled with the $193 million pension deficit.
Snook has previously estimated the funding cut was about $150,000 and contends the new council needs to rethink that decision.
But Coun. Shirley McAlary is one of a few council members wondering where any additional resources will come from.
“I can’t spend any money for anything, because we don’t have the money, and I don’t think the city manager has a pocketful of that he’s not telling us about,” she said.
Snook said he will wait for the new council to get briefed on the issue and for a response from the city manager before picking up the conversation again.