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Saturday, July 14th, 2012
By William Kincaid
City orders repair or removal of building
First notice
  CELINA - City administrators have issued their first unsafe building notice to a property owner.
Donald Zeller, 120 N. Lake St., was informed that a building on his property has been deemed unsafe. The dilapidated, barn-like garage has a gaping hole in its roof.
The letter from safety service director Tom Hitchcock dated June 5 states that Zeller has 60 days to make repairs to the building or raze and remove it from the premises. If he does not take any action, the city will repair or raze the structure with costs assessed to Zeller.
Hitchcock is authorized to act as building inspector and deem structures dangerous or unfit after city council members in April approved new legislation to empower city officials to combat blight.
Hitchcock said the city has not heard from Zeller, and no repairs have been made. Attempts by the The Daily Standard to contact Zeller were unsuccessful.
A preliminary survey of structures within the city indicated that 40 buildings, including 10 homes, likely fit the definition of unsafe buildings, Hitchcock said.
The city also is working with the owners of seven vacant, damaged homes to seek grant dollars for demolition.
Mercer County Treasurer Dave Kaiser, on behalf of the county, is applying for the Moving Ohio Forward Grant, a $120,000 federal grant to tear down blighted buildings in several communities. Hitchcock hopes to get a portion of the funds to tear down some, if not all, of the seven homes in Celina.
"It's a win-win for everybody," he said.
The total number of properties that meet the grant qualifications for demolition in Mercer County is 30, county community development director Jared Ebbing said. If the grant is received, another meeting will be scheduled with community leaders, Kaiser and health department officials to decide which properties to choose.
The funds are expected to be awarded by the end of July.
After Celina officials learn if they will receive any of the federal money, Hitchcock said they will focus on issuing additional unsafe building notices to owners of detached garages and sheds - projects that city employees could demolish at minimal cost. The city plans to target larger structures, including homes and possibly commercial buildings, in future years.
If the building inspector determines the costs of repairs to a structure would exceed 100 percent of its current value, it must be demolished, according to city law. If the structure has been closed or boarded-up for at least two years, it also must be demolished.
Hitchcock has said the city would be lenient with the 60-day order to repair or demolish structures if the owners are showing progress or are waiting on a contractor.
Structure owners can challenge an order through an appeal hearing. The appeals board will have the power to sustain, modify or reverse the decision of the building inspector.
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