STRUTHERS Plan sets deadline to repair complex

STRUTHERS -- Steel worker Scott Nevel sees the Spring Street Apartments, a complex that some residents once called the city's dirty little secret, as the key to retirement.
Nevel, 41, is purchasing the 34-unit complex from Kim Stocker on a land contract, despite the building's torrid past and the estimated $225,000 he expects to put into the place.
The Youngstown resident and Thomas Steel Strip Corp. employee said he owns about 40 rental properties in the area, though none in Struthers. He expects the Spring Street Apartments will allow him to retire early from his full-time job.
"It'll make or break me by the end of this year," Nevel said Wednesday afternoon from City Hall, where he met with city officials to go over repair timetables.
To be done: City officials and Nevel agreed on a plan that allows him 14 days to repair or replace just about everything on nine occupied units. He must also secure an unoccupied building in that time and has 30 days to repair a porch roof.
Exterior conditions must be repaired by April 30.
"We need to see noticeable improvement here in a reasonable amount of time," said Mayor Dan Mamula.
Nevel said he'd like to see at least half of the complex's units rented by the end of the year.
However, he's required to repair and have the city inspect any unit before it can be rented.
He said one-bedroom units currently rent for $225 a month, and two-bedroom apartments go for $250 a month. Nevel would like to raise the rent $50 on each style of apartment after he completes renovations.
"If you invest half of what you make on them, you can make them beautiful," said Nevel.
What problem was: But it's the complex's appearance that has drawn the ire of neighbors before.
In July, the city spent about $3,800 cleaning up rubble behind the apartments.
Stocker, the ex-wife of Councilman Terry Stocker, D-4th, pleaded no contest to three building code violations pertaining to the complex last July.
She was found guilty and ordered to pay $200 plus court costs for not having an occupancy permit and for exterior property violations. One building code violation for having garbage around the property was dismissed. Stocker, who had owned the complex since 1997, was also ordered to repay the city for cleanup costs.
JoAnn Kidd, who has lived two doors down from the apartments for more than 20 years, said she still doesn't see much hope for a turnaround.
"Those apartments have always been bad," said Kidd, who forbade her daughter to move there in 1986. Kidd and her husband would like to sell their home, but are concerned about the price they'd get living so close to the complex.
City officials can only hope for the best.
Safety Service Director John Sveda, who, along with fire officials, will inspect Nevel's progress in two weeks, said he's cautiously optimistic that Nevel can turn the complex around.

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