By TOM GIAMBRONI
LISBON - Columbiana County commissioners are expected to hire contractors next week to begin demolishing another 22 homes under a program being funded with a $500,000 state grant.
Commissioner Jim Hoppel reported at Wednesday's meeting the second round of homes to be demolished will be in Salem, East Liverpool, Wellsville, Salineville and Hanoverton.
This is in addition to the 49 homes to be demolished during the first phase in Columbiana, Leetonia and East Palestine and in Butler, Center, Knox, Liverpool, Madison, Middleton, Perry, Salem. St. Clair and West townships.
County Development Director Tad Herold said 27 of the 49 homes have been demolished to date by the contractor, Extreme Demolition & Excavation. Those with homes still needing to be demolished include Columbiana, East Palestine and Leetonia and Butler, Center and Perry townships.
"It's taking longer than hoped," Herold said, partially because they awarded the demolition pact to one contractor. But he said the money they saved in doing this enabled them demolish 12 more homes.
Hoppel said they will likely divide the second round of homes between two contractors to accelerate the process.
Because of the additional expense involved in having the homes first tested for asbestos, the final tally could exceed the grant by $20,000, but the state will cover half of the cost overrun, with commissioners paying the rest from county funds.
The $500,000 represents the county's portion of what the Ohio Attorney General received as a result of a nationwide settlement reached with five mortgage companies sued by states for fraudulent and deceptive lending practices.
The money is to be used to demolish dilapidated homes, and commissioners invited each city, village and township to submit a list based on priority, with the promise that at least five homes would be razed in each community that applies.
Commissioners said they were taken aback somewhat by criticism about the program's pace at a recent meeting of the township association, with some trustees claiming they had yet to see the contractor at work in their township.
Commission Chairman Mike Halleck said complying with federal regulations also slowed the process. "If the federal government would have stayed out we would have had it all done by now and for less money," he said, adding the asbestos inspections ate up 41 percent of the funding.
In other action, commissioners acted on the recommendation of county Department of Job and Family Services Director Eileen Dray-Bardon and fired employee Jodi Burbick for allegedly falsifying records and dishonesty.
Burbick was long-time caseworker in the Children Services division, and as part of her duties she was required to meet at least monthly with foster-care children in the homes or facilities where they are placed. According to Dray-Bardon, Burbick falsely entered into the records that she had met with a particular child at a residential-care facility when no such meeting had occurred. When questioned about the incident, Burbick reportedly gave dishonest answers.
"This is a pretty serious rules violation," since failing to meet with the foster children as required to check on their well being poses a potential safety risk, Dray-Bardon said.