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Crime, blight prevention programs discussed by Land Bank

Two Chautauqua County Land Bank Corp. programs to prevent crime and blight are continuing to evolve.

On Wednesday, Gina Paradis, land bank executive director, said the land bank board discussed the programs during its regular monthly meeting.

During the June meeting of the board, Paradis discussed the programs, with one being a blight task force and tool lending pilot program that will start in Jamestown. She said volunteers will go into specific neighborhoods in the city to clean up vacant properties. She said the volunteer crews will also do exterior improvements and lawn work at the vacant properties. She added that neighbors of the vacant properties will be engaged to volunteer with the cleanup and exterior improvements. Also, the program would allow for homeowners in the neighborhood to borrow tools to make their own home improvements.

The second program, also dependent on volunteers, will be a crime prevention program through environmental design. She said vacant houses will be examined to try to make less vulnerable to crime. The program would also include adding heightened security measures like more lighting. This program would start in Jamestown, Paradis said.

On Wednesday, Paradis told the board she has modeled the programs the county land bank will use after one that was started in Flint, Mich., by Kettering University.

“They had done a similar program so I modeled my proposal after there’s,” she said. “They recently published a five-year report so I shared that with the board so they could better understand how the program works.”

Unfortunately, Paradis said both programs rely heavily on volunteers, which is currently ill-timed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve been anxious to recruit volunteers to get involved because I don’t know how the response will be,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to do these programs, but the timing isn’t great with the whole COVID crisis.”

Paradis said she has ordered the personal protective equipment for the programs. She is hoping by the end of the summer the land bank will rollout the new pilot programs.

In other land bank business, Paradis said the board discussed whether to rehab a recently purchased property along Point Drive North in Dunkirk. Since the creation of the county land bank, the board has approved proposals from other people to renovate a house, which is know as the Rehab for Sales program. She said the idea for the land bank to renovate the property themselves is that there could be more profit made once they sell the renovated house than compared to selling the house prior to the rehabilitation. However, she said the board discussed that because of the pandemic, the cost of construction materials has increased significantly because there is a limited supply, which has made rehabing a house more expensive than in the past years. She added that the board decided to market the house as they typically do through the Rehab for Sales program.

The board also approved the disposition of a property along Route 60 in Pomfret. Paradis said a couple will renovate the house and make it their permanent year-round residence.

“They will be new to the community,” she said. “They are really excited.”

The board also approved the disposition of a Buffalo Street property in Silver Creek, which is dependent on more information from the proposed buyer. The board also approved the sale of a side lot along Tower Street in Jamestown.

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