YOUNGSTOWN - The city unveiled a new section on its website to help residents who have troubles with blighted properties.
The city added a Neighborhood Improvements section to its site that will allow residents to report property code violations or to track the process in demolishing vacant buildings.
Mayor Charles Sammarone said at the unveiling in City Council Chambers that the section is a tool to help neighborhoods get back on their feet. The idea was proposed during the meeting of a neighborhood group he attended several months ago.
Sammarone said the key to the city's comeback is their neighborhoods, and cracking down on blighted properties is one of his top priorities to spur people to come back to the city.
''If you want a city you need strong neighborhoods, and to have strong neighborhoods, you need people living there,'' Sammarone said.
Sammarone said he asked Chief of Staff DeMaine Kitchen to get the project started, so he used a downtown company, Empyra, along with the city's tech department, to set up the site. The process took about eight months.
Kitchen said on the demolition portion of the section, a property will be listed and the records will show what stage of the demolition process it is in. Additionally, it will show which city employee is responsible for each phase, and that employee's office and city cell phone numbers will be posted as well.
''Efficiency, transparency and accountability. The website will allow the public to know what is going and who is responsible,'' Kitchen said.
Maureen O'Neil, who heads up code enforcement for the city, said the site is important for her because it allows residents to know the status of a particular piece of property. She said she hopes it will get residents more involved.
''For residents to participate, they need to be informed and have faith in the system,'' O'Neil said.
Valerie Gonzalez of the Love Your Neighbor Block Watch in the Brier Hill section of the North Side said she likes the transparency the new section of the web site provides.
''This program will be a great asset to our city,'' Gonzalez said.
Jerry O'Hara of the Garden District Neighborhood Watch Association said he tried the site and found it easy to navigate.
''It's very user-friendly,'' O'Hara said.