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City working to make sure vacant lots maintained

10/24/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

During the Oct. 21 Fairlawn City Council meeting, Fairlawn Housing Commissioner Christopher Randles said the city is in the process of demolishing one house on Ridgewood Road and repairing four other homes.

“We’ve had a contractor [Service Master] that we’ve hired to complete some repairs to some vacant houses at 240 N. Revere Road and 3407 Bancroft Drive. The repairs are currently completed on those houses,” Randles said. “The contractor is still out working on 294 Coruna Ave. They’ve got that about 90 percent completed. They still have a few items they have to take care of there and hopefully they will be done sometime this week or early next week. Additionally, they will be jumping on the one at 3076 Bancroft Drive as well in the near future.”

Randles said his department does yearly walk-through inspections, and violations to the city’s housing code are noted at that time. Additionally, he said, violations can be noted during general inspections or following complaints by residents.

“We have some houses in the city that we sent violations to under our housing code. Those orders weren’t complied with, so we asked our Real Property Maintenance Board to issue orders to the house to have those repairs made,” he explained. “The board agreed with the city that repairs needed to be made, so they gave a 45-day notice to the property owners to complete the repairs. If those repairs aren’t completed within 45 days, then I have the authority to hire a contractor to have those repairs completed. At that point, any money that is charged to the city, we pay the contractor and then we assess that value to the property tax bill.”

Randles said the costs assessed for the violations vary greatly in range, with the lowest coming in at approximately $400 and the highest at $12,000.

“Three of the four houses are vacant houses, and they are currently controlled by a bank,” he said. “They are in various stages of a sheriff’s sale. As they sit vacant, they can deteriorate pretty quickly.”

The program has been in effect for roughly three years, Randles said.

“The benefit is that if you live next to a vacant house, as it deteriorates you would have to live next door to that and it would affect your property value,” he said. “Our goal is — as these properties are going through the sheriff’s sale process — to try to maintain the house at minimum standards to get through that process. But there has to be a violation present for us to do anything. We don’t just automatically maintain vacant homes.”

According to Randles, the city also is working toward demolishing the house at 2821 Ridgewood Road.

“The asbestos report is complete, and we’re waiting to get that report back from the contractor,” he said. “As soon as I get that report back, we can return and demolish it right away.”

Randles said half of the cost of the demolition will come from the Moving Ohio Forward program.

“That’s a grant that the county has where the city gets reimbursed half of that cost. The other half comes from the city,” he stated. “As the jobs are done, we then apply to the county to get reimbursed. This is the first one we’ve had to do.”

The total cost of the demolition will depend on whether asbestos is present in the building.

“If we don’t have any asbestos removal, it’s going to cost between $7,000 and $8,000 to have it demolished,” he said. “If we have to hire an asbestos contractor to remove any hazardous materials, the cost will be higher. But I don’t have any quotes on that yet.”

In other business:

  • Fairlawn Law Director Ed Riegler said city officials have started negotiations with the negotiators for city employees regarding new contracts.
    The city’s contracts with police patrol, police sergeants, full-time fire personnel, communications specialists and service employees are set to expire at the end of the year.
  • Parks and Recreation Director Laurie Beisecker said the city donated $2,491 from the Sept. 1 food truck roundup to the Fairlawn Community Foundation Oct. 16.
  • Fire Chief Russ Hose said members of the Fairlawn Fire Department went to the city of Norton Oct. 19 to participate in a “live burn.”
    “I was able to send some of the 11 new employees who have minimal fire experience,” he said. “It was a great opportunity for them.”
  • Mayor William Roth did not attend the meeting Oct. 21. Council President Russ Sharnsky (at large) said Roth is in Germany on an “economic development trip.”

The next Fairlawn City Council meeting is set to take place Nov. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at Fairlawn City Hall, 3487 S. Smith Road. The next Committee-of-the-Whole meeting is scheduled for Oct. 28 at 6 p.m. in City Hall.

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