MOUNT VERNON — Funds may soon be available for Knox County to get rid of blighted properties through means of demolition. This was the report from Amy Schocken with Community Development Corporations of Ohio when she met Thursday morning with the Knox County Board of Commissioners. Also attending the meeting were Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis, and Julie Miller and Nate Overholt from the Knox County Health Department.
Schocken explained that Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently settled with five of the nation’s largest mortgage companies over foreclosure abuses, fraud, and unfair and deceptive mortgage practices. As a result, the state of Ohio is to receive its share amounting to $330 million in relief through loan modification, principle reduction and interest rate refinancing programs. DeWine has allocated a total of $75 million to all 88 counties in Ohio to demolish vacant, abandoned and blighted properties in what is called the Moving Ohio Forward Grant Program. Knox County’s share of the funds will amount to $404,328. Other portions of the state’s funds are going to pay individuals who were cheated through deceptive acts and for foreclosure counseling.
“We got a lot more money than a lot of other counties,” said Schocken, in pointing out a chart which lists other counties and the funds for which they are eligible. “Funds were determined on the percentage of foreclosures between 2008 and 2011.”
The funds are to be spent on demolition of residential structures only, according to Schocken. Property cannot be acquired with the funds, and residency must be able to be documented. Demolitions can take place through documentation of condemnation from the health department or zoning officers, or documentation which describes it as a blighted structure. A list of debilitating features was submitted with the demolition program guidelines. “If two of these items can be checked off, it can be determined to be blighted and can be demolished,” said Schocken. Voluntary demolition forms can also be used in cases of the homeowner signing off to approve demolition.
Funds can be used at the various entities around the county, although a lead entity must apply and be approved. Funds will remain dedicated to each county until Dec. 31, 2013. The first round of grant applications will take place until June 30. The initial grants will be awarded Aug. 1, and all work must be completed by Dec. 31, 2013. Counties must follow all state regulations regarding lead-based paint; and an asbestos survey is also required for demolitions to determine if asbestos is present. Any asbestos hazard abatement must include proper disposal.
Knox County officials will now be collaborating with representatives of other potential participating groups including the city of Mount Vernon, all county townships, Mount Vernon Fire Department and Habitat for Humanity. An initial meeting to discuss application plans will take place Thursday, May 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the Knox County Memorial Building.