Dozens of Clifton’s eyesores are destined to be demolished or greatly improved thanks to a Freeport McMoRan grant awarded to the town last year.

Freeport provided the town $115,000 for it’s beautification and abatement project.

Clifton Code Enforcement Officer Angel Maldonado, with a help of a town committee, has identified 45 abandoned properties that could benefit from the program.

The project aims to have property owners bring their properties up to code or demolish structures deemed dangerous. If owners don’t handle the demolition themselves, the town will look for a contractor to do the work.

“I actually started the background legwork in October in hopes we’d receive this grant,” Maldonado said. “Once we did (the grant was awarded in December), I just continued from there. The first step was identifying the abandoned properties.”

She believes that with the grant the town can fix 15 to 25 of the properties identified.

After certified letters are sent to the property owners informing them the property is being looked at, an engineer assesses the structures to determine whether they’re dangerous.

Of 10 places where she’s started the process, Maldonado said six have been deemed dangerous.

The others only need cleanup, which can be done by the owners or the town’s public works department.

“Many of these houses are owned by people who don’t live in Clifton or even in Greenlee County,” said Clifton Town Manager Rudy Perez Jr. “Some of these absentee owners have chosen not to make the necessary exterior improvements or repairs to the houses they own. Many inherited the houses from parents or grandparents.”

The plan offers property owners a reimbursement of up to $1,000 for any work they do to fix or tear down a house; this was included in the Freeport grant.

“One property owner is actually demolishing their house right now. Once that’s complete and they’re compliant with town code, they’ll show all the receipts and proof they hired a contractor. Then they fill out a form and we can reimburse them up to $1,000,” Maldonado said.

“We’re working with them, trying to incentivize them to bring their houses up to code so we don’t have to abate,” Perez said. “If we know they’ve received our correspondence but chosen not to respond then we continue with the process until we either get them to comply or demolish the house.”

“So far I’ve had a better response from property owners than I thought I would. I’ve been able to contact four of them,” said Maldonado. “We send out a certified letter; with most places, I’ll also post a letter on the property. We then place a lien on the property to try to recoup the money spent to clean it up.

“The goal is for the property owners to take responsibility; even if we tear a house down, maybe they’ll rebuild something or sell the property to someone who will want to revitalize it. One property sold after it was deemed dangerous. We sent the property owner the information explaining what they’d be required to do and what the town would do if it wasn’t. It gave them the motivation to decide to sell the property, and the new owner is going to fix it and live in it.”

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