Those who own properties neighboring abandoned or derelict properties in Berger may be breathing a long-awaited sigh of relief next year as the rural Franklin County city hopes to land a $125,000 grant that would help raze those dilapidated structures. 

“Right now, we have some homes that are in pretty bad shape,” said Kurt Hellmann, Berger city clerk. “We have some properties that have not been lived in for 10-plus years, easily.” 

The city is in the early stages of applying for a community development block grant sponsored by the Missouri Department of Economic Development. The grant’s application deadline is Dec. 31; it’s expected to be awarded sometime in 2021. 

The city hopes to use the grant to demolish eight to 10 properties. The deadline for interested property owners to vocalize their interest to the city is Dec. 15. Interested property owners should call Berger City Hall, 573-834-2074. 

The property owners will likely not have to pay anything toward the demolition, according to Hellmann, though the state’s website for the grant program says property owners will need to commit to paying at least $500 toward the demolition costs. 

Hellmann said the property owners also will need to agree to keep the properties maintained following the demolition and removal of the old home. 

“At the end of the day, that would be a win for the city of Berger. This is just the first part of our plan to help beautify and get Berger back on track,” Hellmann said. 

Hellman said the city is currently talking to one property owner about participating in the demolition program. 

“We are trying to get to a time when it is more than the city council that is involved in making decisions, to a time when more people are involved,” Hellmann said. 

According to city officials, Berger plans to use the grant, if awarded, as a catalyst for new home construction and to attract businesses to the town, which is home to more than 200 people in rural Northwestern Franklin County. 

“We hope to make Berger a place that people want to come back and visit, that has some businesses,” Hellmann said. “I’ve had people ask me about when were we going to bring some businesses to the community. I tell them the first step is taking care of these houses and cleaning up the town.”

The grant would not only beautify the community, Hellmann said, but also make it safer. 

He added, “If we had kids going into these homes and playing then it would be a very dangerous situation.”