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EPA rules to lessen demolition in Youngstown

Published: Thu, June 2, 2011 @ 12:04 a.m.

By David Skolnick



One federal agency is permitting the city to use a bulk of its Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds for housing demolition, but another federal agency is causing the demolition costs to almost double.

City officials say that means Youngstown will be able to demolish only 140 vacant houses when the $1,096,328 in NSP funds would have knocked down about twice as many structures last year.

“It’s a waste of money,” said Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency started enforcing a policy at the beginning of the year requiring communities using federal money, including the NSP funds awarded to Youngstown by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to test for asbestos and clean it up, if it exists, for every structure it will demolish.

It typically costs the city about $2,500 to $4,000 for each housing demolition, said Sean McKinney, Youngstown’s buildings and grounds commissioner. With testing and abatement, that cost increases to $4,000 to $6,000 a house, he said.

“We’re very thankful to receive federal money, but we’re disappointed we have to spend the funds for testing and abating,” he said.

Mayor Jay Williams says other cities are also complaining about the new policy, and called the requirement “unreasonable” and “an overreach” by the EPA.

In addition to demolitions, NSP money is to be used to purchase foreclosed houses, fix them up and sell them as well as provide financial assistance to those who are losing their houses.

City council will be asked at its next meeting, June 15, to accept and allocate the $1,096,328 NSP money, and the city administration will award contracts for the work shortly thereafter, McKinney said.

The city received good news from HUD on Wednesday about this money.

HUD had originally placed a 10-percent cap on NSP money for demolition projects. The city sought a waiver to increase that to 66 percent. HUD officials approved the city’s waiver request Wednesday.

The city has demolished about 2,400 structures since 2006.


1revzeke(4 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

In my personal opinion (I know - everyone has one) Youngstown's use of these federal neighborhood redevelopment grant funds (in demolition) has been handled in criminally corrupt ways --- especially in light of this article ! What else is new ?
In January of 2010, I was awakened @ 5:30 am by a neighbor, because a crew of people had just kicked in the door and began ransacking a house two blocks down the street that I had bought on land contract from Atty Mark Hanni... It was NOT derelict, had been maintained, was secure, and was undergoing renovation... I had about $15,000 in it... I'm SURE Mr Hanni knew there were undisclosed dealings in process when he signed the deed over... I knew there was a several thousand dollar water bill, and I found out in August of 2009 that there was a balance of unpaid property taxes --- I paid half of the disclosed delinquency and would have paid the other half in February, had there still been a restorable house on the property... There had been NO due process involving me, NO notification, and NO offer of compensation for imminent domain taking of MY property... I found out that the house my wife & I were living in was also on the demo list --- I fought that and finally was assured that it would be left alone (but no one would put anything in writing)... It took the city almost 5 months to tear down that first of my properties --- leaving it unsecured and a danger to the public in its process...
I find it fascinating to see that demo costs are listed here @ about $5,000, even with the EPAs pencil-pushing waste of tax-payer dollars... I'd really like to know why, when my tax dollars already paid for my financial loss and ruin of my property by way of those federal grants --- WHY has the city and its collection attorneys now billed me $27,500 and placed a lien against my current home to guarantee their costs of demo ?
I have no way of knowing how many others have been victimized by the thieves we've allowed to hold office in this town's government, but I can't be the only one who's being ripped off !

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2Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

revzeke :

"WHY has the city and its collection attorneys now billed me $27,500 and placed a lien against my current home to guarantee their costs of demo ?"

The costs of operating city hall are skyrocketing and tax revenues are dwindling due to the structures that have been demolished . They are simply recouping their expenses . Have you been victimized ? Naw, you have contributed .

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3Photoman(1103 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

When you beg for and receive monies from the feds there are always long strings with big hooks attached. The little fish city of Youngstown has now been snagged on one of those big hooks. The EPA is one of the primary reasons so many companies have moved out of this country.

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4glbtactivist(300 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Thank goodness at least one part of the government is looking out for the safety of the people. Thank you EPA. Mayor, stop being cheap and risking the health of your citizens. Do the job properly and everyone will be safer. Again, thank you EPA.

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5ytownsteelman(674 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Nobody's health is being risked! You can't just take at face value everything that the EPA says or does. Their regulations are way over the top and have long since passed the point of protecting health. Everything in life is a cost/benefit situation, and the EPA likes to ratchet up costs to achieve increasingly diminishing benefits.

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6howardinyoungstown(591 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

In Detroit it costs the city about $10,000 to $12,000 to demolish a property, because they require the contractors to remove the entire foundation and backfill with dirt only. In Youngstown the cost is so much lower because the city looks the other way and does not require removal of the foundation; which means that all of the vacant lots, can only be used for parks and gardens, as building any kind of structure would require removing the old foundation at a cost of $10,000 to $15,000 giving each vacant lot in the city a negative value of between $9,000 to $13,000. I guess even the city thinks that no one will ever want to move here in the future, not much forward thinking going on in the halls of power.

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7Tigerlily(509 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Do it right or don't do it at all.

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8Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Bulldoze it all down for goat pasture to launch a goat cheese industry . Let's make Youngstown productive once again .

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9walter_sobchak(2418 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Most of the homes that are being demolished were originally constructed in the eras that asbestos was used in a wide variety of building materials, from insulation to floor coverings to wall plasters. The main concern is the material that is friable, such as insulation. While it is a concern overall, the only real danger is that posed to the demolition workers from long term exposure. These workers definitely need protection. Howeever, we all have asbestos in our lungs from particles that are naturally occurring in the atmosphere.

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10InColumbiana(63 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Seriously??? Does the whiners want to go down and stand on the receiving end of the contamination? If they're so unhappy, I say just give the money back and be done with it. I can't believe they're even trying to whine about being forced to NOT contaminating the entire neighborhood around these demo sites. What's the matter, is someone's relative not certified to get the work when it has to be done right?

As for the goat farming, that might work except that YTown lots are also contaminated with lead among other heavy metals... the goats (if they survived well) would likely produce contaminated milk... but then I guess that would be the fault of the EPA too... not the mills or drivers of vehicles that used leaded gasoline, right?

The lesson here -- If you let big-businesses treat your town like a toilette, then don't complain when people point out that it is a cesspool.

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