Warren ready to start demolitions

WARREN – Perry Postlethwaite may experience a double shot of good news this week as wrecking crews begin demolishing fire-damaged homes around the city.

Two of the first 16 homes expected to be torn down are next to properties he owns on Penn Avenue N.W.

The properties, 180 and 211 Penn Ave., each experienced fires just more than two years ago.

“I was asleep in my house when the house next to mine (211 Penn Ave.) caught on fire,” Postlethwaite said Monday. “People were knocking on my door trying to wake me up, but I was sound asleep. I didn’t wake up.

“I was told the flames were leaping from the basement window toward my house,” he continued. “I was lucky my house did not catch on fire.”

The house two doors south and across the street also was damaged by a fire. It also is next to a house Postlethwaite owns.

“Thank God the city is doing this,” he said. “I’m so grateful these houses are being taken down. This is not a bad neighborhood. There are only a couple bad houses on it.”

The houses are being demolished using Moving Ohio Forward grant money. The city provided $500,000 and received a matching amount from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

The city – which has taken down one house using the grant money – has until year’s end to spend the remainder of the $1 million.

“We were hoping they would take the second home down on Monday,” Mayor Doug Franklin said.

The number of houses torn down will be determined by the cost to demolish each home.

Early estimates are the demolition costs may be between $6,000 to $8,000 per home, depending on the amount of asbestos to be removed. Work crews have been taking asbestos out of the 16 homes.

Franklin said the administration is hoping the speed up the demolition process by bringing in more companies to test for asbestos.

“They go into the houses to collect samples and send them to labs to be tested,” he said. “We have to wait for the test results. If the houses are hot, then the asbestos materials have to removed before they are taken down. This increases the costs.”

After the fire-damaged homes are leveled, the city will move on to abandoned houses that police identified as havens for criminal activities.

“We are opening bids for the next 24 homes on July 15,” Franklin said. “We are planning to have all the contracts signed for all of the homes that can be torn down using Moving Ohio Forward money by Sept. 30. The houses must be down by Dec. 31.”

While the city has a guaranteed $1 million in funds for demolition, it could receive additional Moving Ohio Forward funds that were provided to the county. That amount has not been determined.

Among the houses being cleared of asbestos Monday was 187 Atlantic N.E.; which was a welcome sight for Lili Whiteman.

The house is two doors east and across the street from Whiteman’s home. She has seen vagrants going in and out of the house.

“No one has lived there for a long time,” Whiteman said. “I’ve seen some people in the house. It can be dangerous.”

The trees around the house are overgrown and providing perfect hiding places people hiding in shadows.

Another neighbor, Stephanie Russell, says she was robbed near her home last year and the thieves ran between abandoned houses to get away.

“I definitely will feel safer if the house is down,” she said. “I’ve lived here for seven years and I’ve never seen anyone living in the house.”