City faces demolition deadline

WARREN – The city has just over six months to use $1 million available from the state to raze houses.

Moving Ohio Forward Funds must be used by Dec. 31. The city has yet to tear down a single house using the funds.

“We have to ramp up our schedule for demolitions in the city,” Mayor Doug Franklin said. “We intend to use every dime available to us before the end of the year.”

Warren pitched in $500,000, using money from the sale of mineral rights under the Avalon South golf course to provide a dollar-to-dollar match from the Moving Ohio Forward program.

Franklin said the city has about 100 properties in some phase in the preparation for demolition.

“We plan to have the first homes down within the next three to four weeks,” Franklin said.

There are a number of things that have slowed the demolition process in the city, including determining the level of asbestos in each home.

“We are not the fiscal agent for this project,” Franklin said. “When we were in charge of the NSP demolitions funds, we were ahead of schedule in the demolition of homes.”

In the meantime, residents are becoming increasingly impatient with abandoned and accessible homes in their neighborhoods that can provide places for criminals to hide, wild animals to next and fire targets that can threaten their homes.

Matt Martin, director of Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, expressed concern that nothing has been torn down in Warren, since the city worked hard to obtain the full match funds to condemn a significant number of derelict properties.

Sam Lamancusa, director of the Trumbull County Landbank, says most Trumbull county communities taking part in the Moving Ohio Forward program should have their abandoned houses torn down by late summer and early fall.

“It will be tough nut to crack for Warren to do $500,000 worth of demolitions in that time, but it is doable,” Lamancusa said. “In terms of reimbursements, we believe we have to turn in the final paperwork to be reimbursed by the state by late December.”

Girard and Warren Township each provided a $25,000 match to the money available in the Moving Ohio Forward Fund. Other communities, such as Brookfield, Howland, Hubbard Township, Weathersfield, McDonald, Hubbard, Newton Falls and Niles, requested smaller amounts. The Trumbull County Land bank has torn down six houses in Warren and another two in Niles.

Girard Mayor James Melfi said the city has torn down three houses using the Moving Ohio Forward funds and are looking to doing another five to eight demolitions this year.

“We already have put some out to bid,” Melfi said.

Howland’s Kim Mascarella said the township has identified three properties it wants to take down using the Moving Ohio Forward funds.

“We are currently working with a contractor to determine the amount of asbestos in the houses,” Mascarella, director of planning and zoning, said.

Howland has a $10,000 match for the Moving Ohio Forward grant, so it will have a total of $20,000 for the demolition of homes.

“We would like to tear down all three homes, but that will be determined by how much it will cost to remediate and tear them down,” she said. “It might be only enough to tear down one of the homes.”

Lamancusa said the landbank has spent an average $8,000 for each home that it has torn down. Some homes cost more and some less, depending on the amount of asbestos must be removed.

Dennis Blank, a community activist working with Gregg’s Gardens in Warren, which has been planting wild flowers on empty lots had planned on planting on some of the cleared lots.

“I am impressed and envious at the pace houses are being taken down in places like Lorain and Youngstown,” Blank said. “I hope that Warren can catch up.”