By Ed Runyan
The Trumbull County Board of Health has declared 54 homes unfit for human habitation, all but seven of them in Warren Township — the latest step in a process that officials say will lead to demolition of about 300 homes countywide.
The demolitions will be carried out with Trumbull County’s $1.2 million share of the $25 billion national mortgage settlement with the country’s five largest mortgage companies over foreclosure abuse, fraud and improper practices.
Frank Migliozzi, director of environmental health for the Trumbull County Health Department, said the declaration of unfit for human habitation is one step required to raze homes.
Fourteen of the homes were condemned for the second time last week, Migliozzi said. They were condemned once several years ago, but because there is money available to demolish them now, the health board inspected the homes again, Migliozzi said.
Forty-eight of the condemned homes are in Warren Township because it has been deemed one of the areas in greatest need.
Sam Lamancusa, Trumbull County treasurer and director of the Trumbull County Land Bank, said 80 percent of the demolition funds will be used in Warren City and Warren Township.
The other seven are in Brookfield, Mecca and Hartford townships and in the village of Newton Falls. Migliozzi said additional condemnations will occur in the months to come.
The Trumbull County Board of Health is responsible for homes in parts of the county not covered by a municipal health board.
The Warren City Health Department, meanwhile, has 254 homes on a demolition list and another 230 on a condemnation list, said Bob Pinti, deputy health commissioner.
The difference is that homes on the demolition list are clear for demolition. The other list contains homes that are unfit for human habitation but with a chance the owner or lien holder might still want to reclaim them, Pinti said.
Warren already took down 350 homes using money from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The city hopes to have as many as 350 more removed through the attorney general money, Pinti said.
Lamancusa said the demolitions should begin in September.
He estimates about 250 of those will come from Warren City and Warren Township and about 50 more from the rest of the county. The city is contributing $500,000 toward the project. Other communities are contributing smaller amounts.
The nonprofit Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership is making a demolition plan to guide the process.
Matt Martin, TNP’s director, said the plan will try to group demolitions to have the most impact. For instance, one focus area will be south of the Warren City Schools’ Lincoln K-8 building on Tod Avenue Southwest near the Warren Township line.
Other school neighborhoods and entrances to the city also will be a focus, Martin said.
Pinti said he believes the partners in the demolition project — the TNP and the county land bank — understand the potentially great benefits in tearing down individual homes.
“I don’t know if anyone knows the city as well as we do,” Pinti said. “We know the areas we have problems in, the hot spots. I’m sure they will take that into consideration,” Pinti said.
Bruce Ramey, a Washington Street resident, said he agrees with grouping demolitions to have the greatest impact, but he disagrees that the entrances to the city are more important than other parts.
“It’s the people who live here in the neighborhoods that are important,” he said. “I don’t care about what it looks like at the entrances to the city.”
Warren Safety-Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa said it is nice that the attorney general money doesn’t have as many restrictions as some of the federal programs, meaning the demolitions can occur in other than just low-to-moderate-income areas.
“It allows us to cast a broader net,” Cantalamessa said. In some cases, removing a single home in an otherwise nice neighborhood can have a “huge” impact, he said.