Thursday, February 21st, 2013
By Shelley Grieshop
Grant used to demolish houses
  Nine blighted homes in five local communities have been razed using funds from a Moving Ohio Forward grant.
The demolished homes were located in Celina, Fort Recovery, St. Henry, Coldwater and Wabash.
Jared Ebbing, director of Mercer County's economic development office, said the grant program - funded by lenders penalized for the recent housing market crisis - is a plus for local communities.
"I'd say that overall this program was a good use of the Attorney General's Mortgage Settlement Funds," he said. "From our county's perspective, the funds were set aside, and if we didn't use them, another county would."
Funds for the federal program were derived from a $25 billion settlement with the nation's five largest mortgage lenders for foreclosure abuses, fraud and unacceptable mortgage practices.
The county in August received a $123,000 grant and has until Dec. 31 to tear down qualifying buildings. Approximately $49,000 remains unspent and will be used to demolish more eligible homes, Ebbing said.
The homes already torn down were at 1031 E. Livingston St., 5683 Oregon Road, 4802 state Route 703, 7781 Erastus-Durbin Road and 6491 Meyer Road, all of Celina; 610 S. Wayne St., Fort Recovery; 251 W. Columbus St., St. Henry; 323 E. North St., Coldwater; and 0 Church St., Wabash.
St. Henry Village Administrator Ron Gelhaus said the property already demolished on Columbus Street was old and in need of repair.
"Sometimes it's not feasible (for owners) to remodel when a structure gets to that age," he said.
When money isn't available for renovations or demolition, blighted homes can create a negative effect on whole neighborhoods, Gelhaus said.
"Tearing them down improves the quality of the neighborhood and can raise property values for everyone," he added.
A total of 32 blighted properties throughout the county were submitted for consideration by a committee of local leaders. Each community seeking the funds was required to obtain letters of consent from property owners and provide other proof to verify the structures legally could be demolished.
Several factors helped trim the application list. The local health department was tapped to furnish a listing of nuisance complaints or other public health problems at some of the proposed sites. The county treasurer also was quizzed about properties with a history of delinquent taxes.
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