RANTOUL — Rantoul trustee Chad Smith objects to the village using taxpayer dollars to buy rundown properties so they can be demolished.
Smith made that concern known when he voted against three proposals to buy such property at the village board's June meeting Tuesday. He questioned whether the village would be better off going through the court system so property owners don't benefit from letting their buildings become rundown and then bought by the village.
But Village Inspector Dan Culkin said using the court system takes longer, and the village is not spending a lot by buying the parcels in question.
The board voted 4-1 to approve the purchases. Board member Tony Brown was absent.
The properties include:
— 5 and 6 Charles Drive from Jon Kizer for $11,000.
— 1521 Eater Drive from Safety Harbor Enterprises of Florida for $7,000.
— 210 N. Penfield St. from Safety Harbor Enterprises for $11,000.
The house on the Penfield Street property is not dilapidated, Culkin said.
Instead it will be used for expansion of the utilities coming from the village power plant.
One lot on the Charles Drive property contains a duplex that will be torn down. The other lot is vacant.
Culkin said the Eater Drive property contains a house that is in bad shape and has been vacant for five years.
Prior to the vote, Smith asked if it were possible for the village to acquire the properties by going through the court system rather than paying property owners for "properties they haven't maintained and are now blighted and makes our community look bad."
"It seems like we're throwing money out there (for a property that has declined in value and enabling the owner to make a financial gain)," Smith said.
Village Attorney Ken Beth said some properties don't qualify to go through the court system because they are not in bad enough shape.
"To qualify ... for demolition, there's a legal process where you can demolish the property, file a lien on the property for the cost of demolition and then foreclose on that lien," Beth said.
Culkin said the properties the village is buying probably don't qualify to go through the court system.
"In acquiring the properties, we are shortening the process" of getting them cleaned up, Culkin said. "If we went through the court system, we may be two, three years out."
He said there would also be the cost of paying the village attorney.
Culkin said he is not advocating "going out and spending a lot of money" to buy rundown properties.
"The money itself is a token as far as I'm concerned," he said.
Smith said the practice has bothered him for some time, and he said he is not alone.
Some residents have expressed concern to him about the village buying rundown properties and demolishing buildings.
"We're spending taxpayer money to buy up property," Smith said. "I understand the way the courts work. As a property owner, you accept some responsibility, and I don't think it's the responsibility of the village of Rantoul nor the taxpayers to pay a property owner for land or homes that they have not taken care of themselves."
Smith said he will continue to vote against buying such properties.
He said using federal money through the community development program is a different matter because that money is "stipulated for that purpose."