Delaware News

Grant will pay to raze crumbling structures


Delaware County commissioners voted Monday, Sept. 17, to begin implementation of the Moving Ohio Forward grant program to demolish blighted buildings in the county.

The board will retain the Great American Title Agency to provide title examination services and EnviroHab LLC to provide asbestos assessments. Both service contracts "shall not exceed $25,000," according to the resolutions.

In March, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine settled with five of the nation's largest mortgage servicers over foreclosure abuse, fraud and unfair and deceptive mortgage practices. The state received $330 million of relief through loan modifications, principal reductions and interest-rate refinancing programs.

The attorney general's office allocated $75 million to Ohio's 88 counties to demolish vacant, abandoned and blighted structures to help protect property values, reduce crime and ensure public safety.

The formula for the disbursement of the $75 million is based on the percentage of foreclosures filed in each county from 2008-11. Delaware County was eligible to receive up to $848,000 but requested only $500,000.

In June, the commission voted to hire the Coshocton-based Ohio Regional Development Corp. to administer the grant program.

Commissioner Ken O'Brien took exception to the way the corporation bid the two service contracts.

"I don't know how people knew to apply for the contract to a company as far away from Delaware County as Coshocton," he said.

County Economic Development Director Gus Comstock said the service contracts did not have to be formally bid because they were both under $25,000. He said the corporation polled three or four title agencies and the same number of engineering outfits and accepted the lowest quotes.

Comstock said the county already has identified 30 dilapidated properties to demolish but estimated there would be enough grant money left for another 10 to 20 demolitions.

"I was approached by one of the townships and they were wondering if all the monies have been committed," O'Brien said. "They were displeased that they were given so little time and such a strict deadline to identify likely properties."

County townships and municipalities were given a little more than a month to identify properties and a deadline of Aug. 30. Comstock said applications received before Aug. 30 would be given preference but that his office still is accepting new applications.

"Then I think you better make all the townships and municipalities aware in a letter that you're still accepting suggestions," O'Brien told Comstock.

The commissioners voted 2-0 in favor of the resolutions with O'Brien abstaining in both instances.

Commissioner Tommy Thompson praised Comstock and his office for initiating the demolition project in Delaware County.

"I think it's important to note that we do have properties in Delaware County that are dilapidated, properties that are going to need to be razed," he said, "and I appreciate the fact Mr. Comstock has been looking into this and found outside funding so that the burden doesn't fall on the Delaware County taxpayer."