ELO continues gathering facts on foreclosure measure

EAST LIVERPOOL – With investigation continuing into its feasibility, legislation requiring posting of a $10,000 bond on all foreclosed properties passed second reading by City Council Monday night.

Councilman Chuck Wade reported on his findings from speaking with banking officials about the proposed legislation, saying he has been advised that once a bank foreclosures on a property but the buyer is still living there, the buyer is responsible for it.

Once the person moves, the bank has a right to board up the property or change locks but the responsibility for its condition remains that of the buyer unless the lender wants to take it on, Wade said he was advised.

Wade said he was also cautioned that the “Wall Street” banks would ignore the ordinance, figuring the city wouldn’t have the financial means to take them on.

The ordinance would have the most impact on local banks, according to Wade, who said they would then have the recourse of refusing to make loans in the city or adding the cost of the bond to the closing costs.

Wade said he is waiting for some additional information.

Councilman Ryan Stovall also offered information he gathered from speaking with Maureen O’Neil, Youngstown’s neighborhood improvement coordinator and Gary Davenport of Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative. Youngstown enacted the same legislation in January.

He said Youngstown’s law director is “fully supportive” of the legislation, which he said has been deemed “fully enforceable,” with legal challenges already won in Massachusetts.

Stovall produced a Youngstown Vindicator article from March in which O’Neil said it “costs the city dearly” because “big banks don’t want to maintain properties that they chase people out of.”

She went on to say she was excited to begin collection of the bond because it “will hold these banks accountable for the blight they create,” saving the city and taxpayers money.

Stovall said Davenport has asked to address council at its next session, at which the final reading and adoption of the ordinance is expected.

In other legislative action Monday, council approved an ordinance to purchase a new street sweeper at a cost of $225,000 after deputy Service-Safety Director Dan Galeoti answered some lingering questions about who will be responsible for operating and maintaining the equipment.

Service-Safety Director Ryan Estell emphasized the sweeper is a “valuable piece of equipment” capable of doing much more than “making the streets pretty,” including cleaning out sewer drops.

Also passed were two resolutions reaffirming the city’s desire to pick up 10.75 percent of the mandatory contributions by police and fire employees into their pension funds.

Ordinances were also passed authorizing a contract with Utility Contracting Inc. for construction of the Saint George Street waterline and force main projects and also for securing the necessary easements with the county Port Authority, Heritage Thermal Services and Growmark Inc.

Estell reported that information is available to home owners in his office or that of Mayor Jim Swoger regarding acquiring insurance that will pay for work on their water and sewer lines to the main, which is the home owner’s responsibility in the event of a break.