The city is planning to document nuisance homes more quickly and knock them down.
By ROGER G. SMITH
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mayor George M. McKelvey had enough.
McKelvey ordered his staff Thursday morning to immediately tear down the fire-damaged, drug-ridden, violence-prone home at 1343 Shehy St. The East Side eyesore was gone by early afternoon.
McKelvey expects the home will be the first of many quick nuisance demolitions to come.
Mary Ford, however, had enough years ago.
So, the sight of heavy equipment about to tear into the drug house next to her was more than welcome.
"The Lord is good all the time," Ford said, a wide smile on her face.
"Yeah, that's right!" said Michael Cox, a neighbor who joined Ford on her Bruce Street porch to watch the nuisance house come down.
Ford described her new outlook on the neighborhood this way: "On a clear day, you can see forever."
A combination of past and recent problems at the address led McKelvey to order the immediate demolition.
"I'm drawing a line. In this case, it's too much," he said.
Police knew the home well, said Chief Robert Bush Jr., who got behind the controls and thrust a mechanical claw into the porch to start the high-profile demolition.
Drugs, fires, homicides
As recently as Tuesday, police conducted a drug raid at the home.
Later that night, a fire gutted the first floor. The fire damage gave the city legal grounds to declare the house a nuisance and tear it down immediately.
Also, there were two homicides near the house, which is next to a convenience store, in May 2000. One woman killed another during a fight over a traffic accident in front of the store, an occurrence without ties to the house.
A few weeks later, a man was killed over a gambling debt behind the store. Several neighbors said activity in the house was tied to that homicide.
Even after the house burned, youths were selling drugs outside Wednesday, McKelvey and neighbors said. Mahoning County deputy sheriffs had to park right in front of the youths and stay to shut down the dealing, neighbors said.
McKelvey told Fire Chief John J. O'Neill Jr. on Thursday to do the paperwork needed to declare a nuisance. Mike Damiano, city demolition director, was called upon to get the work done. Joseph Mastropietro, street superintendent, got the equipment together.
A trailer to haul demolition equipment to the site was out being repaired. Officials still got the equipment to Shehy by 1:30 p.m., Damiano said.
Twenty minutes later, half the house was gone with the other half soon to follow.
Years of trouble
Ford has lived behind the Shehy home for 33 years. Drug traffic there got bad three or four years ago, she said.
John Fitzgerald, who lives nearby, stood on the sidewalk and leaned on his cane while he watched the demolition. The spot has been trouble for at least eight years, he said.
Erasing the house means a safer walk to the nearby store for him and children in the neighborhood, Fitzgerald said.
"I don't know why it took that long," he said.
County property records show back taxes of $158.32 are owed on the house. The three-bedroom, 1,400-square-foot house was built in 1907 and last sold for $3,000 in 1996. It had an assessed value of $3,900.
McKelvey has asked Bush to come up with a plan to more quickly document and then knock down nuisance homes.
The city will seek the owners' cooperation to tear down such houses, waiving the demolition fee as an incentive, he said.
The plan and Thursday's action sends a message to property owners that they must not let illegal activity happen in their homes, McKelvey said.
"If you don't face that responsibility, you face losing that property," he said.