Demolition dollar wads 

Demolition costs have spiked upward under the Kwame Kilpatrick administration, according to budget documents the mayor’s office has forwarded to the City Council.

The average cost of tearing down a vacant structure in Detroit has gone from $6,900 in fiscal 2000-01 — under the Dennis Archer administration — to as much as $16,500 last year. The price per structure went up in part because the number of buildings torn down decreased — from 2,217 in 2000-01 to an estimated 650 last fiscal year, according to Building Safety and Engineering budget documents.

Kilpatrick spokesman Jamaine Dickens says there must be a mistake in the numbers. Last calendar year, the city took down 1,995 buildings, he says, many more than estimated in the budget data. Dickens says the 1,995 structures were taken down between January and December 2002, while the budget data covers the fiscal year, July 1-June 30.

City buildings director Amru Meah was not immediately available for comment to sort out the numbers. For the upcoming fiscal year, the mayor is requesting more than $12 million from City Council to take down 1,200 buildings — or about $10,300 per structure. Dickens says costs are going up because the city is complying with expensive environmental regulations that weren’t followed in the past, such as proper disposal of house rubble and site cleanup. In the past, the city was fined for not following the regulations, says Dickens, who could not provide specifics on such fines.

City Council President Maryann Mahaffey is demanding an explanation, stating in a letter to the building department last week, “I am very concerned about the escalating costs associated with demolition.”

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