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WARREN FBI investigates city demolitions for which no bids were sought



Published: Sun, January 13, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The formal bidding process was skirted when the structures were declared to be an environmental hazard.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

and AMANDA C. DAVIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- The city's habit of demolishing buildings without seeking competitive bids has attracted the attention of the FBI.

In the past year, agents have taken numerous sets of city records from community development, the auditor's office and the engineering, building and planning department that deal with contracts, all emergency board-up projects and housing rehabilitation.

The FBI has also sought documents involving the Regency Hotel, Warren Music Center and Warren Sanitary Milk Co.

The Warren Music Center and Sanitary were demolished by South Main Sand and Gravel. According to city records, no competitive bids were sought for the work.

The city paid South Main $58,643 to demolish the music center and $44,691 to demolish the Sanitary dairy.

Mayor Hank Angelo said South Main, owned by Dundy and Dante Massacci, is no longer in business.

Fires: Demolition of Warren Music Center began May 24, 1996. City officials said they did not have to seek competitive bids because they deemed it an emergency situation.

Demolition wrapped up in June, shortly after the structure caught fire. The cause of the fire is undetermined, according to fire department records.

The Bureau of Workers' Compensation is now at the site.

The dairy, which was at 1296 Youngstown Road S.E., was being renovated at the time a fire broke out in December 1990.

Another fire was reported in October 1995, according to city records. The next day, then-fire Chief Kent Fusselman ordered the building demolished immediately.

Fusselman said the building, which was torn down in 1996, was in extreme disrepair.

The city used community development money and some general fund money for work at both sites.

Hotel demolition: The Regency Hotel at 4322 Youngstown Road was ravaged by fire Oct. 12, 1999. It was then left vacant, and the city took measures to secure the property.

Another fire May 2, 2000, destroyed what was left of the structure, and officials said arson was to blame.

M & amp;M Demolition Inc. of Vienna completed demolition and cleanup at the Regency site in the summer of 2000 for $108,421.

A portion of the cost, $83,421, was paid for with a federal Community Development Block Grant.

James Matash, 39, owner of M & amp;M, was sentenced recently to one year and one day in prison for unlawfully acquiring the contract to demolish the hotel.

He was convicted of one count of bribery for agreeing to pay $5,000 to the city's building official, James Lapmardo, to secure a demolition contract on the hotel.

City council at that time voted against using CDBG money, but was told the formal bidding process was bypassed and M & amp;M was already paid because the site was deemed a safety hazard.

City officials have said the city was allowed to take informal quotes from four companies because of safety.

Lapmardo, who no longer works for the city, has not been charged.

Federal officials have said they have evidence that the Regency contract was not the only one Matash secured in an unlawful manner.

John Kane, resident agent in charge of the FBI's Youngstown office, has said more indictments are expected and that Matash's case is one piece of a much larger puzzle.

Other area contractors and officials are being investigated, Kane has said.

Warren Law Director Greg Hicks said it's difficult to determine exactly what the FBI is looking for because they seized so many records.

A subpoena the FBI served on the city also sought records relating to the former Mahoningside Power Plant site and Country Club Estates.




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