YOUNGSTOWN House demolisher vows to smooth things over

The contractor said a wet spring prevented the grading of 15 demolition sites.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Elnora Hawkins sometimes steps into a hole instead of onto her West Evergreen Avenue driveway when she gets out of her car.
A city-hired contractor demolished the lower South Side house next to her narrow driveway late last year. The company never properly graded the site to meet the neighboring property, however.
"They never did come back, since January," said Hawkins' daughter, Eleanor Baskins.
That left several dropoffs along the driveway. Hawkins is fragile and has arthritis, so the holes are dangerous to her, Baskins said.
Weeds have grown waist-high, glass beer bottles and food wrappers have built up in the grass and kids started playing in the 3-foot dirt piles since the demolition. Ben Frazer, who lives across the street from the demolition site, said rats recently scurried out from the back of the property.
Will act soon
The city's contractor says it will take care of the problem as soon as today.
Heavy spring rain left the ground too wet to smooth the surfaces on 15 demolition projects that the company did for the city this winter, said Cosmo Iamurri of CTC Excavating in Boardman.
The soil is ready to be graded now after a few weeks of dry weather, he said.
Iamurri said he would send his crews out immediately to grade the 15 properties, starting with the West Evergreen site. That work couldn't be done in the winter, he said.
CTC wanted to leave those demolition projects until the spring and do all the work at once, Iamurri said. However, the city wanted the homes gone immediately so CTC did winter demolition and planned for spring grading, he said.
Withholding pay
CTC hasn't been paid because the city doesn't pay contractors until the final grading is done, said Mike Damiano, demolition director.
Damiano said he called the contractor several times and heard promises but didn't see any action. Contractors sometimes are held up by rain and then become swamped with the backlog of work, he said.
Damiano said he feels bad that neighbors have to put up with unfinished work.
The city's only recourse beyond withholding payment is to revoke a demolition company's bond, he said. That could put a company out of business, however. The city has threatened that, but doesn't want to ruin a company over an issue such as grading a demolition property, he said.
Hawkins is just glad to hear the lot next door is supposed to be finished. Now, she wants to make sure it gets done.
"I don't care if I'm first or if I'm second. I just want it done," she said.

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