Philly Council reckons with demolition, potholes, snow destruction

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As budget hearings continue in Philadelphia City Council, officials are confronting the cost of removing hundreds of dangerous buildings and an expensive season of snow removal.

About 600 buildings in the city need to be demolished because the structures are imminently dangerous, reported Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Carlton Williams. But with an old city such as Philadelphia, the more buildings that are torn down, the more that pop up as problems, he said.

“We’ll have it down to about 300 or 400 by the end of this year and another 200 will go on the list, especially after winter weather conditions that we’ve had this past winter season,” Williams said. “Those cause vacant properties to deteriorate even faster, and so that’s the challenge that we currently face and constantly battle.”

Williams said he is doing all the demolitions he can with the budget his department has.

“We have 13 public demolition contractors that bid on these jobs. The goal is to try to maximize the use of the funding we have,” he said. “So what we do is map and target these properties in various neighborhoods and try to package-deal them so we are taking down five or six at one time.”

The department is adding 27 inspectors and support personnel to ensure the demolitions are done safely.

Philadelphia usually spends about $7 million for snow removal, according to city Streets Commissioner David Perri. Over the past winter, costs rose above $18 million. Now, he said, workers are trying to fill all the potholes left by the storms.

“We’re very successful in using a what’s known as a ‘pothole killer’, it’s a piece of equipment that can fill a pothole in 90 seconds,” he said Tuesday.

Speed is good because there are plenty of holes to fill.    

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