Youngstown allocates more funds for demolitions

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There are far more vacant structures in Youngstown than there is money to tear them down, but on Wednesday, city leaders shifted another $250,000 from the general fund to pay for more demolitions.

Tearing down a vacant home costs about $8,000 to do the environmental abatement, asbestos cleanup and demolition. That is why the mayor and City Council continue to go after every dollar they can find to make a dent in the demolition list.

“We received a check from the Bureau of Workers Comp, and a percentage of that money was re-allocated into demolition, to finish the remaining contracts that we have outstanding,” said DeMaine Kitchen, Mayor Chuck Sammarone’s chief of staff.

That covers the contract costs to demolish about 30 homes already slated to come down. This year, 502 vacant houses will be demolished, compared to 942 in the last two years combined.

“We have over 4,000 vacant structures in the city. Most cases, probably 99 percent of those are going to have to be torn down, so we got enough structures for the next five, 10 years to tear down,” Sammarone said.

Sammarone said the street department tears down about 10 structures a week. And city leaders continue to look for more money to contract out more demolitions.

There could be another round of funds from Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office or a piece of $60 million coming to the state through the Ohio Housing Financing Agency.

“We’re just kind of waiting in the wings, and seeing what happens with these different pots of money,” Kitchen said.

Sammarone’s goal was to tear down 1,000 structures this year, but it looks like they’ll do about half of that.

“I used to always throw that number of 1,000 out, but that’s how I’ve been all my life. I always put high goals, hopefully you reach them and if not, if you come close, it’s still a success,” Sammarone said.

“I’ve been seeing a dramatic increase in it. I”m seeing the results,” said Youngstown 5th Ward Councilman Paul Drennen.

And even though they may fall short of the mayor’s 1,000 structure goal, demolition numbers continue to increase annually.  Numbers show the city tore down 304 houses in 2011, 422 in 2012 and now 502 planned in 2013.

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