Polluters should pay

Gloversville – the name leaves no doubt as to what industry became synonymous with the city.

While the glove and leather industries have largely left the area, reminders of the businesses and people who helped build the community remain. Unfortunately, some of these reminders are eyesores – and they are left for taxpayers to clean up.

This issue came to light once again recently as Gloversville tries to demolish an old mill building on Hill Street. Fulton County balked at Gloversville’s request to have the county demolition team raze the building because the city does not own it. Doing the work could raise liability issues and allow a private landowner to benefit later by selling the property. Gloversville officials noted the city has the ability through an ordinance to sue and file a lien against the property, which would keep it from changing hands until the lien is paid. The city attorney is drafting an indemnification letter to remove liability. We hope the county and city can work this out.

We also hope city officials can establish a way to routinely deal with old, privately owned buildings that need to be demolished. Gloversville Department of Public Works Director Kevin Jones noted about seven privately owned buildings in the city could be considered potentially dangerous.

When municipalities shy away from taking ownership of a run-down building, it stays in private hands and often continues to deteriorate. The listed owners of a property – individuals or corporations – may no longer exist or simply refuse to respond to court orders.

Often, municipalities take ownership of the properties through foreclosure proceedings. Unfortunately, when that happens, county and city taxpayers have to pay for demolishing and cleaning up these properties. State law essentially leaves municipalities that take ownership of these properties on the hook for the cleanup costs.

Local officials should pressure state lawmakers to change the relevant regulations, particularly the ones that allow property owners to walk away from blighted, polluted sites.

What a shame the owners of potentially dangerous and toxic properties leave them here for taxpayers – their former neighbors – to clean up.