Gram street superintendent Frank Herpeche opperates city equipment to destroy a condemed house at the corner of Texas and Blewitt. The house was filled
Gram street superintendent Frank Herpeche opperates city equipment to destroy a condemed house at the corner of Texas and Blewitt. The house was filled with junk, animal feces and cigarette butts. (Casey Holder)
The city of Graham has become much more efficient at destroying property in the last two years, mainly because property owners are voluntarily allowing their structures to be torn down.

In that time, the city has demolished 32 structures, and this week four more will be torn down. In 2012, code enforcer Jason Cottongame employed an idea in Graham that he had been implementing in other cities for the past six years: Instead of going out for contract bids to demolish property, which typically resulted in liens being placed on the property at an average cost of between $6,500 to $7,500, why not just have the city perform the demolitions at a fraction of the cost?

“This is something we've done in my other customer cities for several years now, and it just seemed like a picture perfect fit for Graham,” Cottongame said.

Prior to this new method, the city would first have a code enforcer inspect the property. If it was deemed non-compliant with code, the property owner was given 60 days to bring the structure to compliance. If the structure was not brought to code, the city would hold a condemnation hearing through the Board of Adjustments.

If the findings of the hearing determined the property be torn down, the city would then go out for contract demolition bids.

“This process typically results in liens being put on the property,” Cottongame said. “If you put a $7,000 lien on a house, then the chances of you recovering that money from the property owner are about zero.”

Now, through Cottongame's process, city workers take over the demolition jobs, which reduces the cost by thousands of dollars. This in turn encourages property owners to voluntarily have their structures torn down because the cost is significantly less.

Read the entire story in this weekend's Graham Leader.