City plans to speed up demolition process
By David Skolnick
Youngstown is changing how it handles a key portion of its residential demolition program in order to speed up the process, city officials say.
City council Wednesday authorized the board of control to hire a company to handle asbestos testing and construction inspection and serve as the city’s administrator of residential demolitions.
Demolition “contractors have to wait for environmental inspections,” Mayor Charles Sammarone said. “They need to have someone available to do that. That process can be slow. This is a better way.”
Though it’s not on the agenda of today’s board of control meeting, DeMaine Kitchen, the mayor’s chief of staff/administrative assistant, said the board will vote today to hire CT Consultants, a Youngstown firm, for the work.
The company will be paid $1,050 per structure, said Kitchen, the city’s point-of-contact person on demolitions.
By having one company handle those responsibilities, it will take less time for demolitions than having multiple businesses or the city’s housing inspector handling the work, Kitchen said.
CT likely will start Monday doing abatement testing on some of the 800 houses on the city’s demolition list, Kitchen said.
“I want service, and I want it as quickly as possible and no excuses,” Sammarone said. “That’s what people have been getting: poor service and excuses over the years.”
The mayor is critical of the city’s code-enforcement practices over the past 30 or so years, saying it’s responsible for increasing the need for residential demolition.
“Inspectors weren’t doing their job,” he said. “We have people here 30, 35 years who haven’t been doing their job. We’ve got problems.”
The problem was highlighted with the recent rash of arsons at more than a dozen vacant houses, Sammarone said.
“They all should have been taken down,” he said of the houses destroyed in the fires.
Also, the city will plant grass seed at all the locations where houses will be demolished, Sammarone said.
With Jay Williams as mayor from January 2006 to August 2011, about 2,500 dilapidated structures were demolished.
There still are about 2,000 to 4,000 that need to come down, based on various estimates.
The city is expected to spend at least $1.5 million during the next year on residential demolition, Sammarone said.
The city will get at least $500,000 of Mahoning County’s $1.53 million allocation from an Ohio attorney-general demolition program.
Also, the city has set aside $1 million for demolition work.
The lawmakers also approved legislation to borrow up to $7.75 million for two wastewater projects.
The first is to build a 1.5-million-gallon tank to store water during heavy rains near the intersection of Meadowbrook Avenue and Youngstown-Poland Road.
The area has had flood issues for a long time, sometimes forcing the city to pump raw sewage into a nearby creek.
The state loan for that project would be up to $5.25 million.
Also, the city plans to borrow about $2.5 million to replace a broken boiler at its wastewater treatment plant on Poland Avenue.