LORAIN — A new anti-blight task force will soon hit the streets.
“We just cannot continue to see our city deteriorate to the point that it has,” said Rey Carrion, Community Development Department director, after City Council members unanimous approval Monday of the task force formation. “Two inspectors inspecting a city the size of 64,000 is just not going to cut it.”
The Property Maintenance and Nuisance Task Force – comprised of four health inspectors and two building inspectors – will do code walks on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Lorain’s most blighted neighborhoods. The inspectors, who already work for Lorain, will be paid for with $120,000 in federal taxpayer money through a Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The money averts possible layoffs for the health inspectors who are mostly paid for with grant money and allows them to assist overburdened building inspectors.
Lorain’s Building and Engineering Department has just three building inspectors with two responding to housing complaints. The lack of personnel makes it difficult to be proactive which led to creation of the task force.
The task force will be overseen by the Community Development Department whose staff and volunteers will handle paperwork and a phone bank to track down absentee landlords. Inspectors previously were responsible for paperwork and notifying property owners of violations limiting their time in the field.
The formation is in conjunction with other anti-blight initiatives such as a proposed vacant property registry and the recently formed Lorain County Land Bank created to demolish or rehabilitate blighted properties.
Inspections include checking for abandoned cars and high weeds as well as inspecting balconies, decks, gutters, stairways and roofs of homes. Each inspector is to perform 42 inspections per day and 504 per week.
Absentee landlords, banks not maintaining foreclosed homes and irresponsible property owners were all blamed for blight. “The town becoming a ghetto and no one doing anything about it has really upset me,” Missouri Avenue resident George Rafailedes told Council members.
“As far as these slum landlords, they need to be crucified,” said Councilman Richard Lucente, D-6th, who said he leaves near properties whose owners don’t care who they rent to. “I support this 100 percent. It’s about time.”
While planning to get tough with irresponsible owners, Carrion said the task force would work with homeowners who want to get their properties up to code, but can’t afford it. A housing judge will use $10,000 of the grant to buy trash bins to help needy homeowners comply. In other business:
- A proposed 0.5 percent income tax increase was approved for the November ballot with Councilman Dennis Flores, D-2nd, voting against it. The increase would raise $5.3 million with the money going for park and road improvements and to fill a $2 million budget hole. All people who work in Lorain and live in Lorain pay a 2 percent income tax. Those who live in Lorain and work outside the city receive a 1.75 percent credit and pay 0.25 percent. People in both cases would be affected by the increase. Councilman Dan Given, D-at large, said Council members are not demanding more taxes. “What we are demanding is that the residents of this community decide for themselves which direction we should move forward in, whether the status quo is acceptable or whether we want to move forward and improve our community.”
- Support for a proposed regional sewer authority that would allow Lorain to remove the Black River Wastewater Treatment Plant opening up prime waterfront land was unanimously approved. Mayor Chase Ritenauer said Lorain sewer rates would be lower if Avon and Avon Lake opt out of the plan which he said wouldn’t be cost effective for them.
- Council members acknowledged notification from the Ohio Division of Liquor Control of a public hearing on a liquor license for Chick’s House, a proposed bar at 1759 Washington Ave. Flores is trying to prevent licensing citing quality of life and safety concerns.
- Unanimous support was given for the Bring Jobs Home Act. The Congressional bill, co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Copley Township, would end tax breaks for companies that move jobs out of the U.S. and provide breaks to those that return jobs. The bill is expected to be defeated by Congressional Republicans who have a majority in the House of Representatives.
Up to Code
Blighted properties in Lorain are being targeted by a new task force of four health inspectors and two building inspectors.
- 6: hourly inspections per inspector.
- 42: daily inspections per inspector.
- 504: weekly inspections.
- 1,500: estimated number of properties the task force aims to inspect this year.
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or email@example.com.