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Youngstown officials expect at least 502 houses to be demolished this year

There are about 4,000 to 5,000 vacant houses in the city

By David Skolnick

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

By David Skolnick


By Dec. 31, city officials expects to have at least 502 vacant houses demolished for the year.

City officials said Tuesday that 293 houses are down with plans for 209 in the system to be demolished by the end of the year.

Of the 293 demolished houses, the street department did 120, and 64 were done by contractors paid by homeowners, the rest were done by contractors hired by the city, said DeMaine Kitchen, the mayor’s chief of staff/secretary who handles the city’s demolition program.

The city would demolish more — there are about 4,000 to 5,000 vacant houses in Youngstown — but doesn’t have the money to do so, said Kitchen and Mayor Charles Sammarone.

City council will consider legislation today to put $250,000 from the general fund into the demolition fund to cover some of the costs of taking down the other 209 structures later this year.

The $250,000 comes from the $590,517.60 check the city received from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation as part of a $1 billion insurance premium rebate from the state to government entities and private businesses that pay into the program, said city Finance Director David Bozanich.

Most of the money to pay for demolition work this year came from three main sources: $1 million from an attorney-general program for housing demolition, $840,180 from the city’s general fund and $475,000 from the city’s federal Community Development Block Grant allocation.

Sammarone’s goal this year was to demolish 1,000 structures, but will only get to slightly more than half of that.

“You set your goals high and try to reach them,” he said. “If you come close, that’s great. If you come halfway, that’s pretty good. If additional money comes in the next three to four months, we’ll add to that list and hopefully do another 100 demolitions. It depends on the money available.”

There were 422 houses demolished in 2012 and 304 in 2011.

Also, since August 2012, 308 homeowners with properties in poor condition that violate the city’s housing code have appeared at hearings in front of attorneys in the city prosecutor’s office. Of those, 106 violators came into complete compliance and 98 are working on a compliance plan.

The owners of 59 of those properties had the structures demolished at their expense, saving the city about $900,000, said Robert J. Rohrbaugh II, an assistant law director who handles the hearings. Among those were the former State Chevrolet property on Wick Avenue, which would have cost about $200,000 to demolish, he said.

Other large structures taken down by private owners without using city money, he said, include the former Roadhouse on South Avenue and the former Woodside Receiving Hospital on East Indianola Avenue.