Mayor wants council to hear SAFEbuilt offer

Company would provide building dept. services at no charge to city

SALEM — SAFEbuilt, a company which provides building department services for communities, is slated to make a presentation to city council members on what can be done for Salem.

No date has been set for the session, but Mayor John Berlin asked for a meeting of either the Committee of the Whole, which includes all seven voting members of council, or city council’s Rules & Ordinances Committee to hear what the Colorado-based company has to say. Berlin made the request during his report to council Tuesday night.

The city of Salem doesn’t have a building department and neither does Columbiana County, so building projects must go through the Ohio Department of Commerce to get the proper permits, plan approvals and inspections for structural and electrical work. Plumbing is handled through the Columbiana County Department of Health.

After the meeting, Berlin explained that he was approached by members of the Downtown Salem Partnership about SAFEbuilt during their research on finding ways to ease the process of going through the state. The idea of Salem having its own building department was broached before, but he said it’s way too expensive for the city to consider having its own building department.

SAFEbuilt acquired a company that does similar work in the Cleveland area a few years ago and has been working with some Ohio communities, along with its operations in multiple states. Some communities use the company for inspections, some for plan approval and some for certified building personnel who can look at a proposal ahead of time and work with the building owner or contractor. Some communities use the company for all building department services.

Berlin said he pictures the city being able to have times when a building official would be available at city hall, giving that personal touch while also enforcing all the regulations of the state of Ohio, dealing with structural and electrical work. He said there would be no cost to the city besides providing space for SAFEbuilt to operate, such as a desk in the Planning & Zoning office.

The company would be paid through fees charged to the users of the services.

The mayor already hosted a meeting with all the departments in the city with SAFEbuilt to hear their proposal and now he wants the proposal presented to council. To be fair, he also arranged for a state building official to meet with the Downtown Salem Partnership members to hear their concerns and questions.

The Committee of the Whole will meet for both the SAFEbuilt presentation and to hear proposals from two separate companies for electric aggregation. Plans call for the meeting to be held on a non-council meeting night, with about an hour for each topic. The date of the meeting will be announced.

In other business, Berlin said he arranged for a construction company to take a look at the former Butler museum building on East State Street and give a price for rehabbing the building, for flooring, ceilings, the outside wall, pretty much everything. The price ranged from $250,000 to $275,000, which surprised him. He said unless someone comes forward to rehab the building, his recommendation is for the Columbiana County land bank to have it demolished. The land bank owns the property.

Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey questioned whether they could end up with the same problem as before because of shared walls, but Berlin said the bank building next door, which is at the corner of Broadway and State, stood by itself at one time. He said that would have to be investigated by the demolition company. If that was the route taken, the land bank would have to arrange for the demolition, presumably with no cost to the city.

A few years ago, plans had been announced for that corner, involving the former bank building, the Butler and a couple of vacant lots next to it for a children’s museum, but that proposal died out.

Berlin said the former Butler building is available at a reasonable cost through the land bank if someone wants to step forward and rehab it. Anyone interested should contact the land bank, also known as the Columbiana County Land Reutilization Corporation

Land bank executive director Robert Ritchey updated council members on the status of five Salem homes owned by the land bank that are slated for demolition, saying the prep work is beginning at 816 1/2 Newgarden and 287 W. Wilson St. Dan Galeoti of X-treme Demolition is the contractor.

Other properties on the list include 364 and 372 Sharp Ave. (a duplex), 538 Columbia St. and 753 Newgarden Ave. The land bank had already used grant money to tear down six other properties in Salem and all those land bank properties are being well-maintained, whether through a mow-to-own deal with an adjacent property owner or through a landscaper hired by the land bank.

Ritchey noted that the land bank has not acquired anymore residential properties in Salem to demolish or have rehabbed, but would be happy to accept a donation of a property if it’s free of liens.