Council saves Niles hundreds of thousands for school demolition

HOWLAND — The Trumbull County Council of Governments has approved its first major project — assisting Niles with the demolition of a former elementary school building that will cost the city $20,000.

More than 20 city, village and township officials met in Howland for the COG meeting, where a unanimous vote was given for a memorandum of understanding for shared services with Niles, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership and the Trumbull County Engineer’s Office for the demolition of the former Garfield Elementary School off West Third Street, which will be done by the end of the month.

“This was a collaborative effort to eliminate an old condemned school building that had become a health hazard and safety hazard and an eyesore on the south side of Niles. We are utilizing COG to demolish this building,” said Niles Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz.

He said TNP acquired the property through the Trumbull County Land Bank, but TNP cannot legally demolish commercial property. The county engineer’s office, as part of the agreement, will provide manpower and equipment, as will the city.

Mientkiewicz said TNP agreed to do the asbestos assessment and abatement of the building. He said the deed was transferred from TNP to the city.

Officials said Garfield School has been sitting vacant for some time and has been plagued by vandalism and has become a dumping site for tires, mattresses, litter and garbage.

Mientkiewicz said it will cost Niles taxpayers $20,000.

“This is an affordable, once-in-a-lifetime deal to take care of this blighted problem in the city. I talked with some demo companies and it would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to demolish. It will cost us $20,000 and save taxpayer dollars. This is the final piece of the puzzle,” he said.

Bazetta Trustee Ted Webb said it cost $650,000 to demolish the former Bazetta Elementary School in the Lakeview School District.

Mientkiewicz said once the school is torn down, the property will go back to TNP for it to auction. He said the Niles Board of Control will meet April 17 to approve the memorandum of understanding. Niles City Council already has approved the shared services project for a commercial structure.

Jack Simon with Trumbull County Engineer’s Office said the city will benefit from some of the copper, bricks and other items from the structure with the rest to be removed for landfill.

“This is a way COG and the engineer’s office can tackle projects that TNP can’t because it’s a commercial building,” he said.

In another matter, Bazetta fire Chief Dennis Lewis, Howland fire Chief James Pantalone and Cortland fire Chief David Rea discussed how the Trumbull Fire Chiefs Association can work with COG in jointly seeking federal grants for equipment and items needed and used by many fire departments.

Lewis said all departments need equipment to check and test hoses, face masks, ladders and fire trucks annually, and also need grants for getting ambulances and turnout gear.

“We could bid this out collaboratively as an entire county. We are currently seeking a $1.6 million FEMA grant that will be one of the largest collaborative grants to be received by fire services,” Lewis said.

He said the fire chiefs association paid $3,000 for a grant writer to help seek the grant.

Pantalone said shared services in seeking grants for the county’s 33 fire departments would be very beneficial for all departments.

“COG can be the association we have been looking for to work with,” he said.

A committee of Farmington Trustee John Dale and Niles Councilman Barry Profato will meet with the fire association on how COG can help.

The next COG meeting is set 7 p.m. July 10 in Howland.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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