Editorial: Removing blight in Lima needs to remain a priority

The Lima News

Recent claims are unfounded in regards to the City of Lima neglecting the south side when tearing down blighted buildings. However, those accusations do once again underscore the need for Lima to find funding to rid the area of boarded up and unsafe houses.

The concern was a key issue during the 2017 mayoral race and has never gone away. Funding the program, however, has been limited, but it is something City Council can help solve when it meets next month to approve Community Development Block Grant dollars and federal HOME funds for the October 2019-September 2020 fiscal year.

The city’s building and zoning department has requested $1.2 million in CDBG funds to tear down 54 deteriorated structures, but it is currently slated to receive a fraction of that request — $90,000. City Council has the power to increase that amount, although doing so would require cuts to other agencies.

Twice this month Council has heard from members of the south side asking for help.

Bill Jackson of Lima attended last week’s Lima City Council meeting to voice his displeasure about the home next to his. It caught fire but nothing has been done to tear it down.

“I think we have been neglected in the 5th and 6th Wards,” Jackson told Council.

His remarks echoed a concern expressed a week earlier by other south side residents, who gathered by an East Second Street house which has stood fire-scarred and hollow since November.

“We’re tired of being second and being treated like second-class citizens,” Councilman Jamie Dixon said about what he believes to be the city’s inaction in the two wards.

Their frustration is understandable. We doubt you, or most people, would want to live by such property.

The city, however, hasn’t ignored the south side.

From January 2017 to June 18 of this year, 436 structures have been torn down in Lima with 275 of them, or 63 percent, being in the south side, city records show.

What’s clouding matters is that only 33 demolitions have taken place this year in the entire city. The money has virtually dried up for demolitions to occur at a faster pace. Much of it came from Allen County’s land bank program, which no longer is receiving federal funds.

That leaves Community Development Block Grant dollars and federal HOME funds as the chief source of income for future demolitions. The total amount of money Lima will receive in CDBG funds is estimated to be $1.5 million, and 14 agencies have put in funding requests that total $3.7 million. Thus, right from the start $2.2 million in cuts needed to be made.

Community Development Director Susan Crotty is proposing allocations that see all 14 agencies getting at least a slice of the pie. The proposal currently in front of Council is:

• Administration: $182,000

• Property maintenance: $175,000

• Street repair: $175,000

• Demolition: $90,000

• Neighborhood assistance: $81,095

• Housing rehab: $70,000

• Bradfield Center: $61,930

• Emergency repairs: $50,000

• Police support services: $49,000

• Urban Impact Ohio: $30,000

• Housing counseling: $25,200

• Fair Housing: $25,000

• Park Improvements: $20,000

• Rhodes: $7,000

While Crotty’s desire to give each agency a slice of the pie is a noble one, we question if it’s the right path to take, given the public’s continued demand for removing blight.

Of course, the ultimate solution is for the city to obtain payment from the the owners of the dilapidated structures for the cost of removal, which can be a time consuming and expensive process. It’s a misconception that most of the landowners live out of state. The Lima News found that 86.2 percent of Lima rental homes are actually owned by taxpayers who live less than an hour from the residential property they own. A minority, 13.8 percent, of those financially invested in a Lima properties live outside of the 8-county region.

The decision on how CDBG and HOME funds will be dispersed will be made by City Council a month from now during its July 22 meeting. The public has one last chance to provide its input during a hearing before Council at 7 p.m. on July 1 in Council chambers.


The Lima News

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