By Denise Dick
Johnnie M. Wallace watched through the window of her High Street home as a city excavator tore down the blighted house across the street.
It was a welcome sight.
Wallace said the house at 1018 High, as well as the one next to it, stood vacant for a long time.
The house at 1018 was torn down Wednesday morning during a news conference with city and county officials and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
Mahoning County received $1.5 million from DeWine’s Moving Ohio Forward Grant Program. Of that, $1 million is going to the city.
“We want to save neighborhoods,” DeWine said.
The grant program was created with funds from the settlement of a lawsuit by many states’ attorneys general against mortgage companies whose alleged bad acts contributed to the foreclosure crisis.
DeWine’s office allocated $75 million of Ohio’s settlement portion to eradicating blight.
“There are a lot of victims from the mortgage crisis,” DeWine said. “Some of them are people who live in houses who pay their mortgage or pay their rent, send their kids to school but live next door to a house that’s been abandoned, and two doors down is a house that’s a crack house. This is an effort to deal with that — to help these neighborhoods.”
The city is using $840,180 from its general fund as a match for the grant. DeMaine J. Kitchen, chief of staff for Mayor Charles Sammarone, said about $500,000 from its Community Development Block Grant program will be added to the demolition fund.
The city is using both its street department and private contractors to tear down the homes on the demo list. One of them is next to the house torn down Wednesday.
If a private contractor is used, the demo cost is about $7,000 including environmental work, said Dan Yemma, county treasurer.
Sammarone said cleaning up neighborhoods and getting rid of blight has been a priority of his administration.
“We’re losing population,” he said. “This is a way to not only get people to stay but get them to come back.”
Loss of population means loss of tax revenue, and that affects city services, the mayor said.
Trumbull County received about $1.2 through the grant program. The largest amount of $11.85 million went to Cuyahoga County.