After tearing down more than 60 structures in the last eight months, Sherman is planning to hire a three-person crew to facilitate the continued growth of its substandard structure demolition program.

Community & Support Services Manager Nate Strauch filled the Sherman City Council in Tuesday on the progress made by the city’s Quality Neighborhoods Program, which focuses on blighted, vacant properties city staff identify as needing to be renovated or torn down.

“We estimate, based on the number of inactive water accounts, multiplied by the likelihood that those structures are substandard, there’s probably 800 to 850 houses that would qualify for this program today that we could go in and either tear it down or have it brought up to code,” Strauch said, adding the goal of the program is to make the land usable again. “We want these lots to be reactivated, we want them to be reused. That’s the best way for the city to get return on its investment.”

The current fiscal year’s budget includes $125,000 for the program, with $100,000 of that coming from Community Development Block Grant funds received by the city and the rest coming from the General Fund. The 60 substandard structures that have been demolished through the program since Sherman hired Neighborhood Quality Coordinator Chip Matthews came from 44 individual properties and doesn’t include 10-plus more that have been voluntarily brought up to code.

“Chip has done a fantastic job on this program and really exceeded expectations,” City Manager Robby Hefton said.

Hefton explained the program has done so well, it will soon use up the funding allocated for it.

“We’re out of money for this year,” Hefton said before explaining his plan for the program to continue this fiscal year. “We’ve got additional funding from fund balance to carry us through this year.”

Strauch explained the cost of the program averages about $6,000 per house demolished and said bringing the work in house will also require additional equipment such as an excavator, skid-steer, dump truck and trailer. He said those could be leased or paid for with funds from the higher-than-expected sales tax Sherman received in 2018.

“We’d like to get to a point at some point in the next year or so where we’re knocking down 100 different structures a year,” Strauch said. “We think that would really allow us to take a big bite out of this.”