By ED RUNYAN
Township trustees in Trumbull County, as elsewhere, always have had a tool at their disposal to get rid of abandoned and dilapidated homes and businesses.
But that method — asking to have the structure declared a nuisance, having it demolished and billing the homeowner — is costly to the township because such property owners rarely pay the bill, said Julie Green, grants coordinator for the Trumbull County Planning Commission.
The cost is $3,000 to $5,000. “For a lot of these small townships, that’s a big expense,” Green said.
So when Trumbull County was awarded $1.7 million through the federal Housing and Economic Development Act of 2008 to use for Neighborhood Stabilization demolitions, it filled an important need, Green said.
“In my 10 years [with the planning commission], there’s always been a need for demolitions,” she said.
Through the second half of this year and into next year, roughly 200 demolitions will take place using HERA money in townships throughout the county — plus the city of Cortland and villages of West Farmington and Orangeville.
Other locations such as Warren, Niles and Girard were awarded their own demolition money.
Trumbull County’s bid openings will take place Friday and July 16 for about 140 of the demolitions. The county commissioners awarded bids in February for the first 43 demolitions. It could take as much as year for all of the demolitions to be complete, Green said.
Among the areas with the most demolitions is Warren Township.
Terry Ambrose, Warren Township trustee for 15 years, said about 60 of the demolitions are in her township, which surrounds the city of Warren on the west, north and south.
Ambrose believes that in many cases, homes have become vacant because someone moved out or the homeowner died, and the cost to upgrade the septic system was too high for the property owner to afford.
“If a home sits vacant for very long, it falls victim to vandalism, especially with the theft of copper pipes because of the high value of copper,” Ambrose said.
Jay Meadors, who lives on Burnett Road in Warren Township, just west of the city of Warren, is three and four houses west of a pair of small vacant homes that will be removed with the county’s HERA funds.
“It’s a rat harbor, and kids throw rocks and bust the windows,” Meadors said of the two homes, which have been vacant for several years. “It would be good to get rid of them.”
The neighbor who lives one house closer to the two homes told him recently that a stray Rottweiler dog had been coming and going from one of the houses recently, something that was causing concern for her.
Ambrose said the largest concentration of homes being demolished are just south of Warren between Highland Avenue and Tod Avenue. The rest are spread out throughout the township.
Removing some of the blight will make neighborhoods a little safer, Ambrose said, because vacant properties attract vandals. Removing them also will increase property values, she added.