County to demolish vacant buildings using state funds

By this spring, more than a dozen vacant and abandoned structures throughout Champaign County could be torn down as part of national mortgage settlement that provided thousands of dollars to remove blighted homes.

The Champaign County commissioners said Tuesday that 26 structures throughout the county have been identified by the city of Urbana, as well as the county’s villages and townships. As many as a dozen of those structures could be demolished as early as this spring, after some additional research on the properties is finalized, said Amy Schocken, a partner with CDC of Ohio who is helping the county administer the program.

A second round of demolitions is likely later in the spring. The funding to demolish the structures will be provided through the state’s Moving Ohio Forward Grant program.

After administrative fees are taken into account, Champaign County will receive about $233,500 to demolish abandoned properties. Statewide, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office made about $75 million available for the demolition program after receiving the money as part of a national mortgage settlement with the country’s five largest loan services.

Schocken estimated it will cost about $10,000 to demolish each property, so the county should be able to demolish the majority of the sites on its list. A public bidding process to hire a demolition company could take place as early as February, and a second phase to demolish the remaining properties could take place in April or May, she said.

Overall, 11 of the sites listed are in Urbana and 16 are spread throughout the county’s townships and villages.

The goal will be to make sure each township and village, as well as the city, can participate, Champaign County Commissioner Steve Hess said.

“My feeling is we want to spread the money around as much as we can,” Hess said.

Trustees in Urbana Twp. have identified three sites, while Salem Twp. officials identified four. Most other townships listed only one or two demolition requests.

Each of the properties listed is an eyesore in the community, said Lewis Terry, an Urbana Twp. trustee. In many cases, the property owners have agreed to let the county tear down the vacant structures.

“I know of a lot of other places that are eyesores, but not the condition that these properties are in,” Terry said.

A property on Wright Avenue is missing pieces of its wall and roof, Terry said.

“It’s just totally in shambles,” he said.