City seeks funds to clean up property

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 3, 2007

The city of Ironton is in line to get more money to help clean up the former Ironton Iron site; meanwhile, council members have concerns about how another cleanup effort is being managed.

Mayor John Elam told city council Thursday the city is in line get

$2.5 million in Clean Ohio funds to continue efforts to clean up the old mill site and turn it into useable industrial space again.

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Elam said the city’s prospects had looked bleak at the beginning of a meeting last week in Columbus. Among those projects up for approval, Ironton’s was ranked 15 and only 14 were going to be funded.

But after fielding questions about the importance of the project, the Ironton Iron site cleanup moved from 15th place to 12th, thus putting it in line for money. The project request will now go to steering committee Sept. 24 with final approval a couple of weeks after that.

“This is one of the largest pieces of commercially developable properties within the city and it has infrastructure,” Elam said. “This is great; it is great for the future of Ironton.”

Elam said he has been in contact with two entities that have expressed interest in the property once it is useable again. Both entities would use approximately a third of the property and could create 50-55 jobs between them.

The appearance of the city was an issue that got attention on more than one front at Thursday’s council meeting. Some council members wanted to know why one piece of property was on the list of blighted parcels to be torn down using municipal Community Development Block Grant monies. The house at 815 S. Fifth St., was severely damaged by fire last year but has since been sold.

“Why are we even bothering with it?” councilman Rick Meeks asked. “If my house catches fire, is the city going to come and tear it down for me?”

Building Code Enforcement Officer Karl Wentz said the house was put on the city’s list because at the time, he was not aware there was insurance money to pay for demolition and only way to get the house torn down as expediently as possible was to put it on the city’s list.

Since then, he has been in contact with the insurance company and that company is willing to reimburse the cost of demolition for this house. But to get the best price for demolition, he has continued to lump it in with 11 other houses slated for removal.

Some council members took Wentz to task for not citing more people to court for allowing their property to fall into disrepair.

The city has $35,000 in CDBG monies allotted during this fiscal year to tear down blighted houses; city council this year allotted another $25,000 for this effort.

But some people maintain it does not make sense that government funds would be used to tear down abandoned houses and yet the property owner would retain ownership of plot of land they neglected in the first place.

Earlier this month, a

group tentatively called the Lawrence County Housing Betterment Organization, told council they were forming to assist the city with dilapidated houses.

The group would file a civil suit with a court that says a certain house is public nuisance as defined by the Ohio Revised Code. If the court finds that it is, the owner has so much time to fix it up or tear it down. If it isn’t within a certain time, the property can be put into receivership and the group would abate the nuisance. The group wouldn’t take ownership of the property.