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NIAGARA FALLS – Fourteen blighted homes, most of them downtown, will be coming down in the near future.

A demolition contract for roughly $245,000 got the green light from city lawmakers earlier this month, with the wrecking ball slated to start swinging by the middle of next month.

Regional Environmental Demolitions Inc. of Niagara Falls won the contract out of four bids received by the city.

Instead of bidding out for a citywide demolition contract, the work is being split into sections of the city, with the goal of keeping costs down, said Seth Piccirillo, director of the city’s Community Development Department.

“We’re seeing that the targeted demolition approach is reducing costs as we planned,” Piccirillo told lawmakers earlier this month.

Slated for demolition are eight structures on Fourth Street, three on Fifth Street, two on 13th Street and one on Buffalo Avenue.

The properties were selected because they are considered safety risks, are structurally unsound and have been available in foreclosure auctions multiple times, Piccirillo said.

The contract is being funded with city money, as well as a $160,000 grant awarded by the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.

Piccirillo said he believes the targeted approach helped the city get the grant, as well as keep costs down.

The city would not have received the state grant, Piccirillo said, without the establishment of the city’s LiveNF program, which uses city funds to pay for student loans for college graduates who agree to live downtown.

In the end, the average cost for demolition to be paid to the contractor is $17,500 per structure.

The City Council’s unanimous approval of the demolition contract did not come without questions about the bid prices. The next-lowest bid was nearly $200,000 more than the winning bid.

“We’re confident in that number,” Piccirillo told lawmakers.

Councilman Charles A. Walker said the average cost for a house to be demolished in the city over the past five years is about $25,000, compared with the $17,500 in this contract.

Councilman Samuel F. Fruscione said he does not plan to allow a contractor to “nickel and dime” the city with additional charges of $1,000 or $2,000 on demolitions.

There will also be more city demolition contracts available later this year, and contractors have an incentive not to see increased costs.

“They know their ability to get more work, or anyone’s ability to get more work, is directly associated with keeping the costs down,” Piccirillo said.

The other bidders for the demolition work were: Mark Cerrone Inc. of Niagara Falls ($438,880); C&R Housing Inc. of Kenmore ($469,625); and Metro Contracting Inc. of Niagara Falls ($580,725).

“Fourth and Fifth streets, as they are now, inhibit residential and commercial investment and tourism,” Piccirillo said in an email.

“The area needs to improve right now, not five years from now, so blight needs to be eliminated. At this point, new builds would be more financially feasible than restoration of these buildings.”

email: abesecker@buffnews.com