Commissioners borrow funds for demolitions

LISBON – Columbiana County commissioners are one step closer to demolishing abandoned and dilapidated homes under a program being funded with state money.

Commissioners voted this week to borrow $500,000 from the First National Community Bank to underwrite the cost of the demolition program, with the state reimbursing the county on a house-by-house basis.

The demolition program is being funded with $500,000 awarded to the county by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The money represents the county’s portion of what Ohio received from a nationwide settlement with five mortgage companies that were sued by states for engaging in fraudulent and deceptive lending practices.

Commissioner Mike Halleck said the state will not provide the money up front and will instead reimburse counties for the demolition. Rather than put up their own money, commissioners opted to borrow the $500,000 instead.

“We thought that was better and easier than using our money,” said Commissioner Jim Hoppel.

Sixty-nine homes have been targeted for demolition in the county, based on priority lists submitted by each city, village and township. Pam Dray of the county development office said 34 homes will done in the first phase and the remaining 35 in the second phase.

Of the initial 34 homes, asbestos was found in 25 and must be removed before those homes can be demolished. Dray said asbestos abatement contractors are being asked to submit quotes to do the work, and bids will be sought to demolish the homes after the asbestos has been removed. She expects that to occur sometime mid spring.

The same process will be followed with the second group of homes, and how many of those they get to will depend on how much is spent on the first group of homes.

“We’ll just keep demolishing homes until we run out of money,” Dray said.

Hoppel said asbestos remediation could have an impact on the number of homes they are able to demolish. “It’s hard to tell what the asbestos (costs) will be, but it could cut down on the number of homes we can do,” he said.