WARREN City aims to stop property neglect

A meeting is set for discussing cleanup options.
WARREN -- Rundown lots, ramshackle homes and overgrown lawns are about to get the attention they deserve.
The city is looking to revitalize some neighborhoods that have been overlooked the last few years, with problems ranging from weeds and long grass to homes that have sat empty for years.
Lawmakers from the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 7th wards were to meet Monday afternoon to discuss cleanup options.
Alford Novak, D-2nd, said the first challenge will be to identify those properties that are in violation.
Action planned: From there, the city can weigh repair options and will try to steer homeowners toward the city's housing rehabilitation programs, Novak said.
"Right now I have a phenomenal amount of homes in my ward sitting in foreclosure or bankruptcy," the councilman added. "We need to make them livable again."
He estimated there are at least 30 such homes -- the most he's ever seen in his ward. A few have been in foreclosure status for as long as two or three years, Novak said, and some are rental and commercial properties.
Dan Polivka, D-at-large, chairman of council's Community Development committee, said the city has a chance of getting $2.5 million in federal tax credits for housing rehabilitation but that it must put up $100,000 in Community Development Block Grant money.
Lawmakers say it's also important to get the city's health, building and fire departments involved so that more property code citations are written.
Novak said Mayor Hank Angelo has indicated that the municipal court will commit to setting aside a few days a month to hear property maintenance code cases.
"Everybody's property values go down," he said. "Somebody needs to be held responsible."
Affected by cutback: Many violations have been overlooked because Carl Williams, a property maintenance code inspector, was laid off in 2000 because of budget cuts. Now that he's back, Novak said, it's been hard for him to play catch-up.
Robert Holmes III, D-4th, said there are a lot of dilapidated houses and broken sidewalks scattered throughout his ward.
He pointed out that the city used to have a sidewalk department that would make repairs and charge them to residents' tax bills. The state or federal money for such repairs has to be out there somewhere, Holmes added.
James "Doc" Pugh, D-6th, said he wants to see an equal distribution of CDBG monies so all neighborhoods are given the same opportunities to clean up.
"I'm hoping the city will be able to partner with some of the local banks to make it possible for some of the young folks who grew up here to buy some of these houses in the 6th ward," he said.
Novak said empty homes and buildings become a target for vandals and thieves.
Pugh said making home ownership easier for young adults will help curb neighborhood crime.

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