County gets grant for demolition of Sawyer buildings

K.I. SAWYER – The Marquette County Land Bank Authority has received preliminary approval for a $486,000 grant to demolish several multi-unit residential structures and garages at K.I. Sawyer.

Marquette County Treasurer Anne Giroux said the money would fund removal of 15 buildings and 21 garages which have been vacant since the U.S. Air Force Base closed at K.I. Sawyer in 1995.

Grant funding is available in Michigan through a 2012 Blight Elimination Program, which is the result of a lawsuit settlement with five of the country’s largest mortgage service providers.

Of a total of $97.2 million allocated to Michigan, $25 million is being directed to blight elimination. Of that money, $10 million is slated for projects in the city of Detroit, with the remaining $15 million to be distributed the demolition projects in communities across the state.

Marquette County applied for $486,385 for the Sawyer project.

“That’s the full amount that we asked for,” Giroux said. “It’s very exciting.”

The city of Marquette and the land bank authority were seeking a $1 million grant to demolish the city’s former Holy Cross Orphanage. Giroux said that grant request had not been approved.

Final grant approval for the Sawyer project is expected within 60 days of receipt of some additional information requested from the county, which is expected to be delivered this week, Giroux said. That information ranges from proof of ownership and photographs to an inspection report and information on previous site use and environmental conditions.

“It’s nothing that I’m expecting any issues with,” Giroux said.

After receiving the information, the Michigan Land Bank will complete a feasibility and budget analysis for the project.

The dilapidated structures at K.I. Sawyer A are expected to be foreclosed on April 1 at K.I. Sawyer for non-payment of property taxes. Those structures would be demolished this year and expected to take three to four months to raze. The buildings – which have been targeted by vandals and are in advanced disrepair – are located along Warhawk, Raider, Stratofort and Panther streets, near the Sawyer Elementary School.

Last November, the county board voted unanimously to approve a letter of support for the project. Pending the grant funding being awarded and the properties being foreclosed on, the county also approved exercising its option to purchase the parcels and transfer them to the authority.

A minimum bid of $88,782 will be offered by the county, which is the amount of the delinquent taxes on the properties. Funding for the purchase will be derived from the Marquette County Treasurer’s Foreclosure Fund.

The demolition project is the latest attempt by the authority to renovate blighted properties across the county. Since its creation in 2009, the authority has marked several successes, including demolition of a school in west Ishpeming and redevelopment of several housing units.

Additional blight elimination grant recipients included $180,000 to the village of Newberry, $10,000 to the Houghton County Land Bank and $50,000 to Brevort Township.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.