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Land bank considers new policies

OFHA visit, time restrictions prompt discussion

The Lawrence County Land Reutilization Corporation met on Thursday morning to discuss their business for the coming month. The land bank opened the meeting by going immediately into executive session to discuss Solid Rock Construction.

While the content of executive session is private, and not open to the public, the land bank held a special meeting on August 3 where they adopted a resolution requesting an appearance by representatives of Solid Rock after asbestos concerns emerged regarding the properties awarded to the company. The land bank also adopted a resolution at that meeting to suspend all abatement and demolition work for packet #4, which had been awarded to Solid Rock.

After returning from executive session land bank administrator Tom Schneider discussed a recent visit to the county by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA). Schneider explained that during their visit they checked demolition sites and advised the land bank on ways to improve the marketability of their properties. As a result of those discussions, he said, the land bank may want to reconsider their current policy on unbuildable lots. While under the current policy no bids less than $1,0000 will be accepted, because of administrative costs associated with the transfer, they may wish to reconsider that policy. Among other benefits of selling such lots to adjacent landowners at a reduced price are avoiding the costs associated with mowing and other maintenance on the property.

Schneider noted that OHFA also congratulated the county on being the driving force behind mobile homes being approved for land bank demolitions across the state.
The land bank also moved to approve Superior Construction Specialist, Inc. as an approved demolition contractor after the company was able to demonstrate they had paid a previous lien and provide proof of a current worker’s compensation certification with the state.

After discussing the bidding process for asbestos abatement and demolition, to consider whether the land bank could save money by separating abatement and demolition on properties affected by asbestos, the land bank determined that the extra time involved in separating the contracts for “hot” properties outweighed any potential savings.

Schneider estimated that breaking the contracts apart could lead to an average 15 day extension on demolition, and that it could delay reimbursement as well, increasing it from an average of 60 days to up to 90 days. Based on these findings, the land bank moved to create a written policy stating that demolition and abatement contracts must be combined on any “hot” properties.
Demolition contractors that do not have in-house asbestos abatement are still able to partner with approved asbestos specialists to bid on packages that include “hot” properties.

Time constraints were also discussed in relation to contractors’ ability to meet the obligations of the contracts they have been awarded, and evaluation of contractors during the demolition process. Lawrence County Treasurer and land bank chairman Stephen Burcham noted that one contractor had started work a week later than expected, leading to “serious concerns” that they might not be able to complete the work in the time prescribed.

Schneider said that, without working weekends, he was not sure the contractor would be able to complete the work, however the contracts stipulate that no weekend work may be completed, except in cases of approved emergency. Even then the land bank cannot allow the work to begin unless neighbors approve the potential disruption.

County Commissioner DeAnna Holliday said that while she understood the concern, she didn’t want to disparage a business or “judge prematurely,” but the land bank did need to take steps to emphasize to contractors why completing tasks within the timeframe provided was necessary.

“It’s going to take diligence,” she said, in educating contractors not only of the timeline they needed to stick to, but “why it is important.”

The board also moved to purchase two properties, at 1409 S. Sixth St. and at 316 Monroe St. in Ironton, at a cost of $5,000 each.

The board moved to table discussion on new policies on purchase bids, and to table discussion on the Cornwell offer, until the next meeting.