Some mayors intend to use stimulus to fight blight

By Peter H. Milliken

The federal program is a one-time neighborhood stabilization effort.

YOUNGSTOWN — Mayors of two cities and a village in Mahoning County say demolition to eliminate blight is their first priority for federal stimulus funds for neighborhood stabilization.

The mayors were among municipal officials who attended an informational meeting with the county commissioners Thursday concerning $2.9 million in neighborhood stabilization funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which have been allocated to the commissioners.

“Demolition — that’s our priority. We have approximately 140 vacant and condemned homes. We have right now on the list over 60 that are ready to be torn down,” said Mayor Jack Dill of Campbell.

“Demolition, obviously, seems to be our biggest [priority] because of the number of vacant homes that we have and blighted structures that have been left unattended or many years,” said Mayor Terry Stocker of Struthers. “This is an opportunity to remove some of those structures and clean up those neighborhoods,” he added.

In addition, Stocker said: “We’ll be looking at several homes that we might be able to rehabilitate and put back into decent shape so people can live there and increase the integrity of the neighborhoods.”

“The smaller communities, such as us and Lowellville, should have a small portion to take care of demolition of blighted properties and possibly even purchase some blighted commercial properties that aren’t being used today,” said Mayor John Smith of the Village of Sebring.

Sebring would try to redevelop blighted commercial properties, most of them in its downtown area, he added.

“This is a one-time program out of the stimulus package,” said Anthony T. Traficanti, chairman of the county commissioners. Ohio’s share of the money is more than $250 million, he added.

“There is some money in there for Habitat for Humanity. There is some money in there for assistance on down payments,” Traficanti said. “Is it enough? I don’t know, but it is certainly a great start,” he added.

The county commissioners also appointed four members to the new countywide Western Reserve Transit Authority Board of Trustees: George Freeman Jr. of Youngstown; Steven V. Gondol of North Jackson; Lee F. Kohler of Springfield Township; and John P. Brown III of Boardman.

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