Cities footing the bill for upkeep of abandoned properties


Kendall Downing

HERRIN, Ill. - It's the classic American image, a small-town street with well-kept homes and freshly cut lawns. But after the economy tanked a few years ago, that has changed.

Local cities are now faced with the added costs of maintaining foreclosed properties. In Herrin, Illinois, 80 homes have been foreclosed on in the past two years.

City leaders say they're going broke paying for the bank's bad loans.

"I don't think any municipality can be prepared for something like that," said Mike Cerutti, City of Herrin Code Administrator.

The grass in yards across the city is so high, you'd think you were in a field.

"We do mow the property and put liens against the property," said Cerutti.

But in the City of Herrin, keeping up with foreclosed properties is a full-time job.

"We don't have quite the employees at this time to keep those properties mowed," said Cerutti.

Cerutti said everything changed a couple years ago. That's when the foreclosure notices started rolling in. The stack just keeps growing.

"It's sad. It's discouraging," said Cerutti.

Leaders are concerned about the costs they're having to take on, tens of thousands of dollars in manpower and legal fees.

The city is considering shifting fines to the property tax bill, with the hope of getting repaid faster.

"Some of the houses that are falling apart are some of the nicest houses in town. That's the really sad part," said Delores Stachura, a local resident.

Stachura said it's tough to see once vibrant homes left in disrepair.

But even tougher is the clean-up job the city faces, with a price tag that keeps increasing.

City leaders are trying to demolish some of those abandoned homes.

They hope to sell the empty lots. But anyone looking to buy one would have to pay off the costs the city incurred just to get a clean deed.