Webber Township cleaning up blight

WEBBER TWP. — Officials in Webber Township have big plans for the future which include presenting a cleaner and more inviting township by removing blight, particularly along the M-37 corridor.

"Four years ago we had 189 blight sites," said Webber Township Supervisor Ernie Wogatzke. "Over the past four years we have taken out 111 of these sites. Among what is left there are seven blight sites along M-37 corridor the township is still targeting, such as the burned-down laundromat."

These sites included abandoned properties, caved-in buildings and garbage which has never been taken care of. Wogatzke said these structures are either torn down and hauled off, used for fire training or in some cases, even restored.

These clean-up and community efforts can be costly, but Wogatzke explained a lot is accomplished by utilizing grants. He said the county has also helped with some of the efforts.

"Taking care of blight is about building pride and giving people a sense of ownership and holding each other to standards. The endeavor is also to make our township more attractive for residents, visitors and third parties who are looking to invest in the area," he explained.

"Our goal is to bring in more businesses and promote local business. We are working on an incubator system to provide a stepping stone to help get businesses off the ground. Improving the looks of our community will help these economic prospects. Once it is cleaned up, people will start buying more property here, more revenue will come in and additional services will be provided for people. This isn't going to happen if the township is looking ugly."

Charlie Moore, recently appointed zoning administrator for Webber Township, agrees the township has come a long way in the past four years.

"This is about building pride and inviting business," Moore said. "As a township we are trying to be visionary."

Moore said in his neighborhood people stop and say how nice the clean-up efforts look and what a difference it makes. People said they thought the collapsed buildings would be a part of the landscape forever because they have been there so long.

The new township board is working well together to address economic and blight issues, he explained. The board plans to have a business forum to invite businessmen to make a master plan for the township. The board is also looking toward more community endeavors, such as encouraging people to use the town hall for functions.

"We are a very proactive board looking to do good things for Webber Township, to bring it out of the past and look forward. We have big plans for Webber Township and we have ways of reaching our goals," he said.

The approach the township is taking is making it easier for people to take care of blight than it has been in the past. There will be just a $40 fee to clean up blight sites instead of extra fines and stipulations added on, which made it difficult and very costly for progress to be made in the past, Wogatzke said.

"We are compassionate to people who don't have money and help them with clean-up efforts. We assist our citizens instead of running them out. We are going to inform people when there is an issue instead of just writing tickets."