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Thousands unspent for demolition program

Clark County expected to tear down nearly 70 more vacant houses.

Clark County has about $125,000 in matching grant money to demolish vacant and abandoned homes, but officials are not certain they will be able to use it.

Last year, community development officials said they hoped to demolish up to 90 homes with its share of the $75 million that was allocated among Ohio counties as part of the largest consumer finance protection settlement in U.S. history.

But so far only 21 structures in Clark County have been razed.

“No one came forward on our side with matching funds,” said David Fleck, grants coordinator with Clark County Community Development.

The national mortgage settlement awarded $25 billion in relief to distressed borrowers. The agreement settled state and federal investigations that accused the country’s five largest loan services of violating laws by signing foreclosure documents without a notary public and without knowing whether the facts in those documents were accurate.

All 88 counties in Ohio applied to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for a portion of $75 million in demolition grants that are part of Ohio’s settlement. Champaign County received about $245,800. Cuyahoga County received the largest grant at $11.85 million.

Clark County and city officials split more than $943,000 from the program, which is part of the Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Program through the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The county received 47 percent of the money, and the city was expected to use 53 percent of the money to demolish 250 homes by year-end.

The city and the county were required to provide about $420,000 in matching money. The county asked townships and villages to contribute to its more than $208,000 share of that, but due to budget woes, communities such as Green Township were unable to come up with the money to participate in the program.

Green Twp. Trustee Allen Armstrong said the county razed three vacant and abandoned homes in the township with money from the program.

But he said the township cannot afford to come up with the matching funds needed to demolish additional eyesores in the community.

Armstrong said Green Twp. and other communities in Ohio have been hit by Local Government Fund cuts and other state budget cuts in recent years.

He said Green Twp. is in “survival mode” just as many area residents who have struggled because of the slumping economy.

“Right now our stance is that budgets are tight. We’re scraping just to maintain the roads,” Armstrong said. “Until our budget situation changes, we can’t take on anything extra. We’re strapped.”

Fleck urged townships and villages and even area residents who want properties razed to contact his office and participate in the program.

Treasurer Stephen Metzger recently appropriated $50,000 in delinquent real estate tax funds toward the program. Half of the money will be used to help demolish structures in townships and villages. The remaining money will be used to demolish homes in the city.

Metzger said a portion of the funds from delinquent tax collections is allowed to be used demolish vacant properties.

“I felt it was a good use of the money,” Metzger said. “Now they’re going to be able to clean up a few more properties. I think it will help enhance those neighborhoods and keep properties values from declining.”

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