Freeport Buildings Cause Debate and Controversy

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FREEPORT (WIFR) – A Freeport alderman is hoping a local group can get the city to do something about vacant homes in his ward.

According to the city's third ward alderman, Ronnie Bush, dozens of homes in his ward are boarded up and unoccupied. He says the houses are unsafe and are hurting the property value of the neighborhoods they're in. Bush is hoping a group called "Neighbors United" can persuade city council members to consider pushing a new ordinance that can help demolish these homes and hold the property owners more accountable.

'Growing up in this area, knowing how some of these houses used to look,” says Alderman Bush. “You look at them now, and just it really hurts."

"Neighbors United" will deliver a presentation to the Freeport City Council tomorrow night to show them just how bad they think the problem really is right now.

Another unused building is causing quite a bit of controversy between the city's mayor and candidates vying for his spot. Some challengers want the council to hold off on decisions before the April election, however Mayor George Gualprapp says he's still in power.

The controversy is over the Rawleigh Complex on the city's northeast side. The mayor is trying to fix it up with $40,000 of city money, and that's drawing criticism from current mayoral candidates Jim Gitz and John Staben. They say Mayor Gaulrapp should act like the lame duck mayor his is and leave big spending decisions to whoever the next mayor will be. Gaulrapp says he's just doing his job.

"I was re-elected to serve four years, and that's what my intent is,” said Mayor Gaulrapp. “My mom and dad told me if you're going to take a job, do the job all the way though, and that's what I'll do."

Jim Gitz sees things differently.

"The mayor insists that he's gonna spend this money and he's gonna spend it right now,” said Gitz, who beat Gaulrapp in the primary election. He went on to say Gaulrapp is spending the $40,000 “even though there's just been an election, and even though there's a difference it what new administrations might do in regard to this money."

Gitz is also arguing the mayor is spending money on a building without a plan to do anything with it.

Gaulrapp said that what he did was a matter of public safety.

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