Trustees are still looking for the owner of the dilapidated structure on Southern Boulevard.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- Trustees have moved one step closer to cleaning up a former gas station on Southern Boulevard that has fallen into disrepair.
The township has decided to use a section of Ohio Revised Code, declaring the property unsafe.
The township zoning department, fire department and the Mahoning County Building Inspection department have declared the property insecure, unsafe and structurally defective.
The state code section adopted by trustees allows the township to recover any cost of cleanup or removal of the building from the current owners. The problem is that township officials have been unable to locate the owners.
Officials believe the owner abandoned the property and had left the country, because they have received no response to requests sent to the last known address to clean up the site and remove underground gas tanks left on the property.
Trustee Tom Costello said it is now believed that the owner has returned to the country and is living in another state under a different name.
Removal cost: Removing the underground gas tanks would cost an estimated $50,000, and if the tanks are leaking, that figure could double.
Costello said the owner, should he be located, will be made responsible for the building. If the owner is not found, trustees do not want the financial responsibility of cleaning up the site to fall on taxpayers.
"What we are trying to do is find a way to get that gas station taken care of without it falling back on the taxpayers," said Costello. "We would tear it down tomorrow if we could."
Trustees are following the advice of representatives from the Akron law firm Brouse & amp; McDowell, which has been working closely with Vern Ord, assistant chief of the Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulators, to rectify the situation. It was the advice of Brouse & amp; McDowell and Ord to adopt the resolution declaring the property unsafe.
Costello said trustees are hopeful that both the resolution and taking slow steps in addressing the situation might secure financial help from the storage tank bureau or another outside agency in cleaning up the property.
Atty. Lisa Novosat-Gradert of Brouse & amp; McDowell has said the township could use one of two means to eventually take possession of the property. The first is by foreclosing for the more than $4,000 owed in back taxes.
Eminent domain: Officials also could invoke eminent domain, which is the legal right of government to take private property for public use. A storm water retention pond could be built on the site, Costello said.
To do that, the owner would have to be paid fair market value, which is about $75,000. There are also liens totaling $180,000 that would have to be satisfied.
Novosat-Gradert said a buyer would be responsible for removing the tanks unless it is to become another gas station. In that case, the tanks would have to be reinforced with a system that detects gas leaks to meet state requirements.
Another barrier in the sale to a private owner is structural damage to the building, caused by a small explosion in 1998.