Having discovered environmental contamination at two residential properties owned by the city of Bexley's Community Improvement Corp., city officials have begun discussing options for relocating tenants while remediation occurs.

Mayor Ben Kessler, City Council and CIC members discussed the results of a recently completed environmental test in the Ferndale Place-Mayfield Place area at a May 1 retreat at City Hall. Environmental attorney Frank Reed and environmental consultant Atul Pandey shared results of the test that Pandey's firm conducted in the winter on the two CIC-owned properties, which each contain two apartment units.

When the city began developing athletics fields that were proposed for the area, environmental tests showed elevated levels of arsenic, hydrocarbons and other contaminants.

"These two properties are not fit for human occupation going forward," Pandey said.

The CIC bought the properties last year through a city program in which the CIC pursues properties in the Ferndale-Mayfield area as they become available, renovates and eventually sells them to private owners.

Kessler said city officials and CIC members have been meeting with environmental experts and affordable housing and relocation consultants for the past three to four years in anticipation that there might be environmental contamination from a landfill that was located in the Ferndale-Mayfield area several decades ago.

Kessler laid out a set of recommendations on how to proceed with the CIC-owned properties, given the newest findings.

"Everything that we're discussing here is 100 percent open to discussion," he said. "This is just a recommendation."

Kessler said estimates show that relocating the residents who live in the CIC-owned properties while remediation occurs would cost an estimated $13,000 to $26,320, total, for a three-year period.

Kessler said he recommends the following:

* Once the city receives Pandey's full written report, submit an action plan to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

* Immediately notify the tenants of the two CIC-owned properties about the results of the environmental study.

* Let the tenants know the city will provide replacement housing as soon as possible.

* Establish a rent-voucher program to subsidize the tenants' rent so they can relocate to two-bedroom units at the current market rate for up to three years.

Kessler said he recommends basing eligibility for the rent-voucher program on whether the tenants have children who are enrolled in the Bexley City School District. He said one of the affected tenants has at least one student who attends local public schools.

Kessler said he has had informal conversations with landlords about the possibility of relocating the Ferndale-Mayfield tenants within the city.

"What I've done is try to get a feel for the different type of unit availability in Bexley and try to formulate what sort of voucher we would need to provide," he said.

Kessler also recommends the city work with a relocation consultant to assist the tenants in finding replacement housing.

Rosetta Brown, president and CEO of the Gahanna-based relocation and property management firm, R.H. Brown & Company, took questions from council members during the retreat. She said her consulting fee of $1,200 per unit includes conducting assessments to help people find housing that suits their needs.

"I also try to do post-relocation, kind of check on the families and make sure everybody is situated," Brown said. "We are very big on housing stability and want to make sure they have been treated fairly where they have been placed."

Kessler said council and CIC members can have further discussions about how and when to relocate the Ferndale-Mayfield tenants and how to proceed with the environmental remediation after Pandey submits his full environmental report this month.

Discussion also can include how to cover the costs of relocating residents, Kessler said.

"I believe the CIC has been provided with funding that can be used for that," he said.

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