Razed homes raise red flags in Hanoverton

LISBON – Cities, villages and townships are being advised by Columbiana County commissioners to wait before tearing down any homes until the money is in hand to do so.

The letter is in regard to a housing demolition program being funded with $500,000 awarded to commissioners from the state. The money represents what Ohio received as part of a nationwide settlement with five mortgage companies sued by states for engaging in fraudulent and deceptive lending practices that contributed to the foreclosure epidemic.

The state will reimburse the county on a house-by-house basis, so commissioners voted earlier this month to borrow $500,000 from a local bank to get the process started. Before that can happen, however, asbestos must be removed from homes, and commissioners have to seek bids for the work.

The letter advises communities which submitted lists of abandoned foreclosed homes they want demolished that nothing should be done until the state releases the money. Commissioner Chairman Mike Halleck said they sent out the letter after learning Jon Kaufman, who owns four Hanoverton properties targeted for demolition, razed two of the homes located on U.S. Route 30. Halleck and Hoppel discovered this while driving through Hanoverton.

The asbestos removal and demolition work is to be done by contractors hired by commissioners, none of which has been done yet, although an asbestos evaluation of the properties is currently underway.

“There was no harm done … but unfortunately, there’s a process that has to be followed,” Halleck said, adding that Kaufman will be allowed to add two more properties to the list to be demolished to make up for the two he already had razed.

A total of 69 homes are on the list to be demolished, but that will depend on how far the money stretches. “Just because you’re on the list doesn’t mean it’s going to happen,” Halleck said.