The Legislature is just steps away from enacting a law that will help municipalities deal with the blight caused by abandoned properties.

When properties are left to fall into disrepair, they become public safety hazards and the target of vandalism. The condemnation process for abandoned property can last as long as 18-to-24 months. During this time, the same course of events almost always transpires: the pipes freeze; vandals strip the boiler and the electrical system of every ounce of copper; and water leaks lead to roof, foundation, and mold damage.

This all comes at the taxpayers’ expense, who then have to foot the bill for demolition costs and watch on as property values in their neighborhood plummet.

Currently, municipalities face unnecessary hurdles in saving their neighborhoods from such blight and transitioning abandoned properties to new owners.

That is why my colleague, Senator Nate Libby introduced a bill to give Maine cities and towns more power to deal with abandoned properties. The measure seeks in a part to make banks more financially responsible for condemned properties in foreclosures.

It does so by requiring the bank to notify a municipality of a property foreclosure, disclose the location of the property to the municipality, and designate an in-state representative responsible for addressing issues with the property. Additionally, the municipality is allowed to provide the care, maintenance, and security of the property and recoup the cost of doing so through a supplemental tax on the property.

Together this will give municipalities the tools to deal with the detrimental effects of abandoned property.

There are many local developers who would be willing to fix up dilapidated buildings if it were not for some of the difficulties they face. By granting towns the tools and recourse to deal with derelict properties, they can more easily transition properties back into the hands of redevelopers.

The measure is supported by mayors and city managers across the state who no longer want to see properties in their town sit vacant and uncared for.

As we have seen in Biddeford over the past 30 years, the process of buying and rehabbing abandoned industrial space and empty storefronts can lead to a dramatic economic revival of a city.

It is time we helped our towns fight blight and revitalize our neighborhoods.

— Sen. David Dutremble represents Senate District 32, which includes Alfred, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunkport, and Lyman.