The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 27, 2013

House next to skate park is No. 1 demolition target in Conneaut

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — When it comes to dilapidated, eyesore buildings, Conneaut has compiled its Top 10 Most Unwanted.

At the top of the list is a long-vacant, decaying house that abuts the municipal skate park and across the street from Conneaut Public Library.

The Jefferson Street house is one of many that could face extinction in the coming months. Administrators have compiled a list of the town’s 48 most troublesome buildings, City Manager Tim Eggleston said at Monday’s City Council meeting. In the coming weeks and months, city officials will inspect the properties, conduct title searches and do other legal digging to find out how many buildings are truly lost causes and beyond redemption.

Once the buildings have been prioritized, the wrecking ball will start swinging, Eggleston said. Conneaut has $150,000 in Moving Ohio Forward money to spend on demolition, good enough to knock down 10 houses with asbestos problems, he said. If little or no asbestos mitigation is needed, demolition will cost less and more houses could be razed with the money, Eggleston said.

Officials have a rough idea which buildings will wind up on the Top 10, but the list is fluid and subject to change. A lot depends on whether the city can convince owners to repair their structures.

“Some of the 48 may only need a little tender loving care to bring them around,” Eggleston said.

Law Director David Schroeder agreed. “Nothing is carved in stone,” he said Tuesday.

Everyone agrees, however, that the crumbling blue house next to the city’s public skate park is beyond hope. Despite boards and barricades, trespassers routinely break into the house, police have said. Council members have long complained the house is a health and safety hazard. As a result, officials anticipate it will be the first house flattened with the MOF money.

Bids for all the demolition projects could be accepted in March and work could begin in early May, Eggleston said.

Meanwhile, the city is putting the finishing touches on its first large-scale demolition project, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Begun a few years ago with money bestowed on Ashtabula and Geauga counties, the NSP helped raze many houses and buildings, including a crumbling, circa-1900 structure at the corner of Chestnut and State streets.

A few days ago, a fire-damaged house at 416 Bank St., was demolished with NSP money. The last house to be laid low under the program is 129 Nickel Plate Ave., and it should be just a memory within a few days, Eggleston said.

People have appreciated the demolition work, Schroeder said. “We have seen how happy people are when these horrific structures are brought down,” he said.