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YOUNGSTOWN Landlord's troubles leave students in dark



Published: Tue, August 21, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Students received instructions on how to get their gas and electric service back.

By ROGER G. SMITH

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Warm beer and cold showers, certainly the bane of college students everywhere.

That's what some Youngstown State University students who live off campus have been enduring the past couple weeks.

Besides bad beer and showers, they've been stumbling in the dark, waking up late because the alarm clock doesn't work and eating somewhere other than their homes.

All the problems are because their landlord is filing for bankruptcy protection and hasn't paid some gas or electric bills.

Monday, Mayor George M. McKelvey arranged to get the students who need it help navigating the mess.

He was joined by Northeast Ohio Legal Services, which is helping one group of students and volunteering to assist others.

Met with students: At least 20 students -- including a half-dozen female soccer players still in cleats and shin guards -- and McKelvey gathered on the porch of a Pennsylvania Avenue home. He brought a city lawyer and gas and electric company representatives with him.

The officials told the students what they must do to get their utilities back. They assured the students, whose rent also was to cover utilities, that gas and electric will be back on shortly and that none will have to move.

"Through communication we'll solve this problem," McKelvey said.

The saga started a couple weeks ago, when utilities were shut off to several North Side properties.

The owner, Shawn D. Lustig of Warren, is filing for bankruptcy protection, said Patricia Dougan, a lawyer with Northeast Ohio Legal Services who is representing students.

Lustig could not be reached for comment.

From records: Mahoning County property records show the landlord owns nine North Side addresses near the university. Seven of them -- six on Pennsylvania and one on Michigan Avenue -- show delinquent taxes. The landlord also is behind on city water payments, but that service won't be shut off, McKelvey said.

"The students should not be punished," he said.

Dougan explained that students should use monthly rent money to get the utilities turned back on and to pay current bills. Any rent money left should be sent to city municipal court, which will hold the payments in escrow during the bankruptcy proceedings.

Once a bankruptcy trustee is named, that person will decide what happens to the property.

Students who already pay their own utilities should simply pay their rent to municipal court to hold, Dougan said.

The goal is to keep the students housed for the next couple months while the mess is sorted out, McKelvey said. That will give them time to find another place to live or to work out another arrangement with whoever ends up managing the properties.

The city isn't involved with the property, so the effort comes under the heading of constituent service, McKelvey said. The students called his office seeking help, and he said he'd do what he could.

"They don't know where to turn," McKelvey said. "I'm not going to turn a deaf ear to them. I'm going to help them."

Students said they appreciated the effort, but certainly not the living conditions.

"It's a pain," said Duane Delahunt, 24, of Canfield. He slipped and fell in the dark one night because there were no lights.

"We've learned to appreciate hot water," said Keith Miller, 22, also of Canfield.

rgsmith@vindy.com




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