Sikeston Community Development Director Barry Blevins works to clean up an LCRA site in Sikeston. Blevins and his crew recently cleared over 50 lots of debris and rubbish.
Photo provided by Marty Evans
SIKESTON – Since its inception over 20 years ago, the Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) has worked to remediate derelict lands. LCRA’s work continues as more than 50 properties were recently cleared of debris and trash.
“LCRA is still active,” said Dan Marshall, chair of the LCRA Board of Directors since 2010. “We’re still doing what the community has asked us to do, which is to clean up the polluted and unsanitary properties. Since we started we have rehabilitated over 500-600 derelict lots in the community.”
On April 3, 2001, Sikeston voters overwhelmingly approved the formation of the LCRA. The commission tasked with identifying devastated areas in Sikeston is then responsible for developing and implementing a plan to create well-organized neighborhoods of decent homes.
The LCRA occasionally acquires title to taxable real estate that was not sold in the sheriff’s sale. It can also receive ownership of real estate through donations.
The LCRA consists of a five-member Board of Directors and support staff who oversee many aspects of public and private real estate development in the City of Sikeston.
Barry Blevins, Sikeston’s community development director, said the LCRA is currently responsible for 127 lots. That’s down from 468 lots in 2010 and 280 lots in 2015.
“We’ve gone from managing several hundred properties to a more reasonable 127,” Marshall said.
Earlier this month, Blevins and a few city employees cleared over 50 properties of undergrowth, overgrowth and trash as part of a massive cleanup.
Blevins said the redevelopment had been bid for by the city three times. The first time a bid was placed but it was incomplete, and the second time an extremely high bid was placed. The third time no bids were received.
So the LCRA and Blevins decided to do it themselves. LCRA provided the funding to rent equipment and Blevins used the equipment to clear the properties.
“It was me and another guy from my department, and on two separate occasions another guy from public works came to the rescue,” Blevins said. “Two to three people work on these projects at the same time. It took six days, about 40 hours of work, to complete the lots we made.”
Blevins estimated they were transporting over 15 loads of debris.
“Some might just have a scoop or two of limbs that just needed to be moved,” Blevins said. “What’s happened is when we don’t get to those lots, as they start to have a heap, people say there’s a heap there, and add. We had a few that were really bad with mattresses, box springs, sofas and chairs.”
Blevins said they spent about $15,000 on equipment, which is much lower than the bid presented to the city.
“We’ve really had a harder time than ever getting people to get quotes from contractors for cleaning this time around,” Marshall said.
Blevins said part of the reason they did the cleanup was to encourage Sikeston residents to keep their properties clean.
“There are a lot of citizens who have junk and rubbish in their yard and the borough code says that stuff like that can’t exist,” Blevins said. “How do you regulate and keep things up to date when your own house isn’t clean?”
Dating back to LCRA’s inception, the organization had a variety of ways to keep the grounds mowed and cleaned, including a program where students tended the grounds during the summer.
“We did that for three years, and that was back when we had a much larger number of properties to look after,” Marshall said. “But they encountered the same thing. When they mowed, there was trash and other things, so they just mowed around it.”
Marshall said Sikeston isn’t the only place people are dumping trash on vacant lots.
“It’s happening everywhere,” Marshall said. “It’s unacceptable, but it is what it is.”
Blevins said he hopes next year to offer mowing of the properties to someone who would also help collect the rubbish.
“I don’t know if that’s going to work or not,” Blevins added.
Marshall said LCRA is fortunate to have citizens near its properties to help maintain it and keep it clean.
“They mow the lot next to their house to make it look like a nice, manicured yard, and they help keep the trash out,” Marshall said. “Civic engagement in the community was good.”
Blevins said they really strive to make Sikeston a nicer place every day.
“It will only be achieved if citizens are willing to do some of the work, too,” Blevins said. “You want the citizens to be dependent on the city to some degree, but you also want the city to be dependent on the citizens. You don’t always see that.”