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EL mayor looks for community help with cleaning up city neighborhoods

Morning Journal/Stephanie Ujhelyi This home and the neighboring parcel are what’s left after a fire at a East 9th Street neighborhood late last year in East Liverpool, as represented by caution tape and a partly melted city trash can on the curb lawn. Donations by East Liverpool City Hospital and Heritage Thermal Services have infused to either raze or remediate troublespots in an effort to clean up the city.

EAST LIVERPOOL — Restoring the city residents’ quality of life was a major issue for Greg Bricker even when he began to run his write-in campaign for mayor of East Liverpool.

His vision as a non-politician and overwhelming an incumbent mayor as well as a veteran councilman resonated with a community hard-pressed to continue seeing the promise of its hometown.

Bricker has planted the seed and now he is looking for help from his hometown to sprout the tree.

Heritage Thermal Services and East Liverpool City Hospital have gotten behind the mission at hand, contributing $10,000 to plant that seed.

The latest of three $2,500 checks from HTS was delivered earlier this week to Mayor Bricker, who sees beyond the potholes, dilapidated structures and struggling job climate to the city he grew up in.

A financial planner by trade, he has long said that conquering the city’s problematic housing stock would be the antidote to the city’s other woes.

East Liverpool administrators have been working with the Columbiana County land bank but realize more help is still needed.

Pat Scafide, who chairs the city’s Community Investment Corporation (CIC) said the entity was tasked with administering that money to purchase vacant structures throughout the city.

It has been several months since the CIC started to receive these mysterious checks and said corporation members and the mayor plan to sit down and finalize what their vision is for the money.

Bricker explained his vision. The properties that are not too far gone will be saved, but the ones past the point of return will be razed with the parcels used for development.

Those in the planning field often refer to it as “addition by subtraction,” and it has been successfully used for decades by cities to revitalize their neighborhoods, increasing property values.

The $10,000 donated by East Liverpool City Hospital and HTS gives Bricker a good start, but this kind of approach can cost money. Fundraising will be a sizeable task especially in this post-pandemic economy, but Mayor Bricker hopes to see others chip in too.

Already Bricker has donated his $60,000+ salary and benefits package to contract with economic development specialists to get the ball.moving.

Fundraising is the first stage of Bricker’s approach.

Either the “flipping” or razing should generate revenue for the city, Bricker acknowledged.

As part of that addition by subtraction approach, the county land bank already has demolished 140 structures within city limits, he outlines that he even is pondering that CIC partnering with developers to make it happen – much like with the former Riverview Florist property.

Mayor Bricker also explained his community cleanup initiative is part of this. Just last week, residents met at the New Castle School of Trades before tackling projects in the downtown, including the exit ramp by Autozone, and the Diamond.

He hopes to make these daily events a monthly occurrence and involve local entities like the East Liverpool High School construction and landscaping classes as well as NCST in projects to help the neighborhood.

The community engagement angle is what Mayor Bricker thinks also is needed.

“I would love to see this develop into neighbors helping neighbors,” Mayor Bricker said, adding the land bank created a very successful template to build upon.

Any particular properties top his list? He mentioned fire ravaged homes on Ravine, Huston, May and East 9th Street were a priority due to safety concerns and the all around eyesore they created for those neighborhoods.

Contributions donated to the blighted properties would all go towards that cause- every dollar, he noted. “I believe if we solve the city’s housing problem, everything else will follow, including our city’s drug problem,” Bricker said.

After all, many economic challenged individuals, drug addicts and dealers find their ways to these properties, where they often squat until discovered. “We have a lot of moving parts, but I believe we are back and ready for it after COVID-19,” he concluded.

Anyone interested in helping Bricker’s mission as a volunteer can call city hall at 330-385-3381.

Donations also can be sent in care of Mayor Greg Bricker at City Hall, 126 W. Sixth St., East Liverpool, OH 43920.

Please address any checks to the East Liverpool Community Improvement Corporation and mark Housing Project on the subject line to assure it goes where you intended.

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