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Youngstown council to weigh plan to hire YSU student

Published: Sat, November 7, 2009 @ 12:06 a.m.

By David Skolnick

YOUNGSTOWN — City administrators want to pay $39,000 to a college senior, with 10 months’ experience as an intern in Youngstown’s planning department, to develop and implement a plan to “deconstruct” dilapidated houses rather than just demolish them.

The city received a $39,000 grant from the state Environmental Protection Agency for the program. Steve Novotny, the 24-year-old Youngstown State University student to be hired as an independent contractor, wrote the successful grant application.

Rather than using a wrecking ball to demolish a house, deconstruction is a technique to systematically take apart a structure by removing portions of it — such as wooden floors, copper piping or chunks of bricks — that are salvaged and then sold.

Hiring Novotny, a sociology major who’s to graduate in the spring, was on Thursday’s Youngstown Board of Control meeting agenda but was pulled because board members wanted city council to first give the go-ahead to the proposal.

Council is to consider that legislation at its Nov. 18 meeting, said Bill D’Avignon, director of the city’s community development agency that oversees the planning department. D’Avignon submitted the request to the board of control to hire Novotny.

When asked about Novotny’s experience, D’Avignon said the YSU student wrote the grant, has worked for the city through an internship for the past 10 months with a focus on deconstruction and helped to deconstruct a house on Brentwood Avenue, one of two vacant structures taken down this summer using that process. The other house was on Illinois Avenue.

“What [more] experience do you need?” D’Avignon asked. “He wrote the grant.”

Finance Director David Bozanich, a board of control member, also defended the plan to hire Novotny, saying he has experience and deserves a chance to prove himself.

Novotny said he has “a very broad knowledge” of deconstruction, focusing on it during his internship. He said he’s consulted with national experts in the field, talked with officials in cities including Cleveland and Buffalo, where the concept is being used, and examined case studies on the subject.

“I’ve gone through 10 months making the necessary contacts and doing the work and talking with the demolition guys as to what works,” Novotny said. “Quite frankly, it’s a new industry. I don’t know of anyone else who’s done what I have done.”

The deconstruction method takes more time than a regular demolition — about three to seven days rather than a day or two — and is about $2,000 more expensive than a regular demolition, which costs about $3,500, D’Avignon said. The reason is more care is needed to take down a house through deconstruction, he said.

The concept includes selling the usable materials, which it is hoped covers the additional costs and diverts those items from landfills, D’Avignon said.

The goal is to make deconstruction a viable option when vacant structures are taken down, D’Avignon said.

Finding buyers for the items removed from the two houses has been challenging, said Anthony Brucoli, director of US Green Building Materials, a Youngstown company that took down the two structures through deconstruction this past summer.

Some bricks and wood from the houses were sold, and Brucoli said he’s spending the winter working on a marketing plan to sell the materials.

“There is a market for some of these items,” Novotny said. “There is absolutely a local market for this.”

Novotny said finding that market is part of what he’ll be doing once he’s selected to develop the city’s deconstruction program.


1andersonathan(682 comments)posted 6 years ago

Seems strange people have been saying this for years all landing on deaf ears.

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2ytownsteelman(674 comments)posted 6 years ago

Foxtrot you certainly must not work with your hands. You give us blue collar types no credit to do these types of jobs safely.

One problem that I see is that the building code prohibits the reuse of building materials in new construction. The lumber is not "graded" in those old houses, so its not like that stuff can be reused directly.

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3NoBS(2389 comments)posted 6 years ago

Just a hint to Steve Novotny, and I don't mean this with any malice. The PBS TV show This Old House has run segments showing them going to warehouses of old mantles, bathroom fixtures, doors, windows, and everything else one can salvage from an abandoned house. It's not all that new an industry - although it is new HERE. Perhaps he can contact the producers of This Old House and have them put him in touch with their contacts regarding salvage and deconstruction. He may be able to pick up some good information.

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4momdog01(1 comment)posted 6 years ago

I also believe that re-using the structural wood salvaged from old houses will be difficult if not impossible to use in new construction. Just think how brittle and warped a 2x4 has become after 50 to 80 years bearing weight from an older home. I have also been to many Habitat stores and can tell you that fixtures such as toilets, light fixtures, doors, windows, etc., sit for a very long time before someone offers a lower price that Habitat is wiiling to accept.

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5becky47(34 comments)posted 6 years ago

This is exactly why Youngstown is in the situation they are in. Don't bother to try and move into the 21st century lets just stay the way we are and fill those landfills. The initial cost may be higher but the fact that the city can resell material obiously is lost on our city council. It has just been anounced that the Mahoning Valley will more than likely lose representation due to the declining population but yes let's pretend it is 1909 not 2009. When all the other cities are going green lets stay in the dark ages kicking and screaming.
The fact that here is a young man that was born and raised in Youngstown wanting to make the city better seems have been overlooked. This is a grant for 1 YEAR to include his pay of $39,000.00. Our city council will fight about this and like so many other grants that we failed to use this one will be returned too. And Mr Novotny will see the writting on the wall that the city is not ever going to be saved and take his knowledge and enthusiasm and go to a city that will embrace his ideas.
Do the city council realize the population drops the need for council members follows suit.

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