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CINCINNATI - Hamilton County will be praised Wednesday for its efficiency in obliterating housing units.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Tuesday that really is a good thing.
Turns out Hamilton County is one of Ohio's most active users of a state-funded demolition program that aims to rid neighborhoods of blighted properties. The $75 million Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Program was funded with proceeds from a national settlement that 49 states signed in 2012 with five mortgage-financing companies.
"These buildings are a cancer eating at the heart of communities," DeWine said in an interview with WCPO Digital Tuesday. "People should not have to live in neighborhoods when they're doing their job and a house next to theirs is falling apart and three houses down is a crack house and five houses down has rats all running through it. They're a cancer and they need to be cut out."
DeWine is conducting a mid-year review of the demolition program. His office found that 75 percent of the $70 million awarded to counties remains unspent, with only six months left until the program's original deadline.
Hamilton County ranks 6th among Ohio's 88 counties with $502,000 in state reimbursements to date. Cuyahoga led the state with $6.8 million in reimbursements. Lucas, Franklin and Lorain counties all have more than $1 million in reimbursements.
But Hamilton County assured DeWine's office this week that it will spend $5.8 million from the state plus $5.3 million in local matching funds by year end. Already, it has demolished 353 housing units but has yet to bill the state for more than $1 million in demolitions. It has $4.4 million in contracts awarded for 249 additional demolitions.
"Hamilton (County is) doing a very good job," DeWine said. "We have some other counties that aren't nearly as far along as Hamilton (County)."
State data shows Butler County ranks 7th in Ohio with $431,000 in demolition reimbursements. That is 19 percent of its $2.7 million in Moving Ohio Forward demolition awards. Hamilton County's reimbursements through July 16 represent only 9 percent of total state money awarded. Clermont and Warren counties each received $500,000 through the program. Clermont has spent $67,000, or 13 percent. Warren spent $21,000 or 4 percent through July 16.
Ohio's data on demolition spending to date ( http://goo.gl/N1UYY ):
"I think we're going to to look back on it and say that was a very good investment," said Paula Boggs Muething, vice president of community revitalization and general counsel for the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. The Port Authority's land bank is managing the Moving Ohio Forward money.
"We've been able to use the money in our focus neighborhoods to propel forward the development strategies identified by those neighborhoods," Muething said. "We've also been able to use the money to get rid of structures that have been blighted for years and years."
Muething and a representative for DeWine will join city and county officials Wednesday for a demolition project funded by Moving Ohio Forward. The 81-unit St. Leger Apartments will be torn down to make way for 26 larger apartments, as part of a long-planned project by the Model Group in the 3200 block of Gilbert Ave.
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