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Steubenville to put building demolition on hold

STEUBENVILLE — Five more houses have been slated for demolition, but Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi told the city planning commission Monday there won’t be any more in the foreseeable future.

Barring an emergency, Petrossi told the two commission members in attendance they’ve instituted a moratorium on building demolitions.

“After consulting with the finance director, the uncertainty over funding, we will not be letting any more demolition projects out for bid until the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the city’s finances is determined and it is known if funds will remain available,” Petrossi said.

Contracts for the demolition of 265 Terrace Ave., 438 Linden Ave., 1275 Lincoln Ave. and 1431 Pennsylvania Ave. were awarded to the low bidder, RSV Inc. of Steubenville. Siegel Excavating of Edinburg, Pa., also a low bidder, was awarded the contract for 1420 Oregon Ave.-Rear.

Petrossi also told the board 272 building permits were issued in April and May, compared to about 433 for the same period in 2019 and 400 in 208.

“You can see there is a reduction in there,” he said.

The commission lacked a quorum, so it could not take any votes. Petrossi, however, said the two public hearings on the agenda had to be held.

A third reading was given to the Fiscal Year 2020-2024 Consolidated Plan/Fiscal Year 2020 One-Year Action Plan. That document proposes using the city’s federal Community Development Block Grant fund allotment to:

≤ Install outdoor fitness structures at North End and Murphy Park. Each unit will cost about $42,500;

≤ Replace obsolete, non-working fire hydrants on South, Spring, Hill, Cardinal, Summit and Dresden, $52,500;

≤ Resurface and complete related infrastructure improvements on South, Spring, Hill, Cardinal, Summit and Dresden, $416,360; and

≤ Fund fair housing services, $30,000; code enforcement, $49,572; and the Commercial Facade Rehabilitation Program (non-residential historic preservation), $40,000.

Petrossi said several projects that had been proposed were not eligible for funding, among them a plan to use $150,000 in CDBG money to purchase an ambulance for the fire department as well as a request for $412,000 in CDBG funds to rehabilitate/install a new roof on the 30-unit Cathedral Apartments, which is owned by the Diocese of Steubenville and operated by the Jefferson County Community Action Council. CAC has another three years on its lease agreement.

Petrossi said “additional dialogue is needed between (the) owner and operator to reach a long-term agreement regarding the future of cathedral Apartments and whether or not it will continue as affordable housing.”

“The life expectancy of the roof project is 20 years, for some other repairs it’s even longer,” he said. “The diocese wasn’t ready to extend the lease beyond the three- year period (CAC remains under contract). The future of that facility is not certain so we couldn’t fund it.”

Asked by resident Royal Mayo about who pockets any profits that are made, Petrossi said it would be CAC, “but right now the building is not making a profit. It costs more to operate than it takes in.”

Petrossi told the group they’ve requested approval to spend $85,000 from the city’s CDBG CARES Act funds for roof repairs at Urban Mission’s homeless shelter, and the remaining $270,667 for a micro-enterprise assistance program. The MEAP would provide technical assistance, training, mentoring, design assistance and coordination to new and existing small businesses with five or fewer employees.

Petrossi said the Urban Mission has been forced to close part of the building.

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