Palestine Mayor Steve Presley 

Palestine Mayor Steve Presley said Tuesday the city will crack down on absentee and other neglectful property owners, as part of a broader strategy to revitalize housing in Palestine.

Addressing about 100 residents during the city's first State of the City event, Presley said Palestine would strengthen housing codes and enforce them, forcing property owners to either repair buildings or sell them.

“We're going to identify and take action on homes that are suffering from demolition by neglect,” Presley said in the Palestine High School auditorium.

The city also will attempt to attract more site builders – in other words, builders who purchase lots, build homes, and then sell them.

“I'm putting out a call to anyone who knows site builders or wants to site-build homes,” Presley said. Builders can receive incentives, such as free water and sewer hook-ups.

Palestine continues to suffer from a housing shortage, Presley said. “Right now, there are so many jobs in the city that they (employers) have to bus people in to do them,” Presley said, without specifying which employers do that. “If we had those people living in Palestine, taxes would be even lower.”

In separate remarks, City Manager Leslie Cloer said the next city attorney also would make enforcing codes on sub-standard buildings a priority.

Cloer also touted infrastructure improvements, including coordinated water, sewer, and street repairs on North Jackson, Martin Luther King Boulevard, and West Point Tap Road.

In other remarks, Presley encouraged people to vote and cooperate with U.S. Census workers. It's important that everyone is counted, he said, because some state and federal aid is based on population.

Short speeches by Presley and Cloer preceded a question-and-answer session with residents.

The State of the City address, which could become an annual event, was jointly sponsored by city government and the Chamber of Commerce.

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