MILLVILLE - City Commission voted Tuesday to demolish four buildings that local officials deemed to be dilapidated enough to present a danger and potential public health problem to their neighborhoods.

City Commission took the action after construction officials testified that the buildings contained debris, produced foul smells, were home to bats and criminal activity, and that some people were literally tearing one structure apart for scrap.

"It's an unsanitary condition in there," city Construction Code Official Michael Morano said of a property at 820 Archer St.

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The city has already spent thousands of dollars to board up and make the building safe for the public, city inspector Derek Leary said. The city most recently boarded up 16 windows at a cost of about $25 each, he said.

Morano said another property at 518 W. Main St. is "loaded with debris."

City Commissioner Dale Finch said he also toured the building and that "the odor eminating from the property was sickening."

"It's creating havoc with the neighborhood," Finch said. "The neighbors are complaining about the odor. I don't see how it can be repaired."

The city moved to demolish the buildings as part of a push to clean up troubled neighborhoods.

City officials are turning to demolition to deal with an increasing problem of abandoned buildings that are - in part because of sour economic times - falling into disrepair and creating potential health and public safety problems. Some of the buildings targeted by the city have sat empty for years, and a few are used as crack houses.

Other abandoned buildings are potential fire hazards. They include two downtown duplexes that the city had to demolish after they burned recently. City fire officials list the causes of the fires as suspicious.

The buildings which City Commission ordered demolished are located at 518 W. Main, 812 and 820 Archer St., and 4 W. Powell St.

Resolutions approved by City Commission on Tuesday require the buildings be demolished by Oct. 24. The city will place liens against the properties to recoup the cost of the work.

City officials said all the property owners were notified of the proceedings. Some were present for Tuesday's meeting,

Margaret Reeves, a co-owner of the property at 518 W. Main St., declined to testify about her property.

City Commission voted not to demolish a property at 816 N. Fifth St. City inspectors testified that the building needs to be demolished after it burned in June.

However, Alexander Russell, who identified himself as the property owner's contractor, said he intends to rebuild the home.

"I just want to know how you say the house is not worth rebuilding," Russell said. "I can rebuild the home."

City Commission members gave Russell 10 days in which to submit a construction estimate for the project. They also ruled that Russell had 30 days to submit architectural plans. They said they consider what to eventually do with the property based on progress of the planned reconstruction.

City Commission also agreed not to demolish a house at 412 Mulberry St. after the property owner agreed to tear it down by Dec. 15.

City officials said they plan to pursue demolition against nine other dangerous and dilapidated buildings.

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