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Charity, police benefit from UDOT’s home acquisitions

Mar 28, 2017 04:49PM ● Published by Tori LaRue

The mailbox is all that remains of the home located at 3740 Alveron Drive. The home was one of the 96 to be fully acquired by the Utah Department of Transportation. (Tori La Rue/City Journals)

Gallery: Charity, police benefit from UDOT’s home acquisitions [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Tori la Rue | tori@mycityjournals.com

Local police and charity organizations are doing what they can to salvage one last use from the vacant houses along Bangerter Highway that will be demolished to make way for freeway-style interchanges.

The Utah Department of Transportation claimed 96 homes and two businesses through eminent domain to create the interchanges at Bangerter’s 5400 South, 7000 South, 9000 South and 11400 South intersections.

UDOT considers property acquisitions as a last resort, but they were necessary in this situation for less restricted travel on the west side of the county, according to UDOT spokesman John Gleason.

To make the most of the home acquisitions, UDOT formed partnerships with local police departments, allowing the officers to use the houses from training purposes, and Salt Lake Valley Habitat for Humanity, allowing the charity to glean household artifacts.

“There is a lot of service that these types of properties can provide even though they will eventually be demolished,” Gleason said. “Our goal would be to make those available for the people who can really benefit from them.”

Gathering doors, light fixtures, cabinets and other items from vacant homes became a full-time job for Layne Burrows, with Habitat for Humanity, when UDOT started its Bangerter acquisition process. Burrows’ job title even changed from “assistant store manager” to “harvesting manager” to more appropriately define his daily responsibility of salvaging home parts for redistribution.

“We used to only look at houses on Tuesday and Wednesday,” Burrows said about collecting items from nearly 100 homes along Bangerter Highway. “We’d work on maybe five to 10 homes at a time, but this is on a new scale,”

Every day, Burrows and his occasional team of volunteers collect anything on the exterior or interior of a house that they can sell at Habitat’s “Restore,” where used appliances, architectural items, cabinets, countertops, lights, fans, flooring, windows, plumbing materials and other used items are sold at a discount. The Restore is a major source of revenue for Habitat, which allows group members to build and repair homes for low-income families in Salt Lake County.

“This saves the landfill, it gives people opportunities to purchase home finishes they couldn’t otherwise afford and improves the life of those who were are able to make houses for,” Burrows said. “It is literally recycling to the best ability. We are so grateful for our partnership with UDOT.”

Public safety entities also partner with UDOT to use the vacant homes for training opportunities. Unified Police Department Sgt. Brady Cottam said his department uses the homes and businesses to practice team movements, rapid response training and incident response.

“We’ll practice the way we do a search warrant or how we would handle a call at that location if there was a domestic dispute gone bad,” Cottam said. “We can practice these things in a real-life setting—in a place where it’s actually OK to break down the doors and windows.”

UDOT and UPD’s partnership for using acquired homes has been in place for 15 to 20 years, but Cottam said the Bangerter homes, some less than seven years old, have given the officers new experiences.

“Usually the house that we train in are old meth houses, but these are some of the nicest homes we’ve ever trained in,” he said. “It’s good to be able to train in some new construction to see what our teams would do if they needed to get inside these houses.”

The Bangerter project has also given the Unified Police Department more opportunities to train on-site than in the past. Usually, UPD trains in one of UDOT’s acquisitions once per year, Cottam said. The Bangerter project has allowed those training sessions to be more frequent.
“Using vacant houses has turned out to be one of the best things for us in our training,” Cottam said. “We’ve gone to training sites that have charged us, but this is a place to practice in our own community for free. It’s an invaluable experience for us.” 

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