The issue of vacant, abandoned homes in the city led city council to swiftly approve shifting additional demolition money over to raze them.
“It truly is a quality of life issue,” said Tim Monea, chief building official for Wooster, told the body Monday night.
While Monea moved forward with the request that additional money — $75,000 for the rest of the year — be appropriated into his budget. The money, he explained, would be used to get five houses all ready to go before year’s end.
Ultimately, Monea said there are a total of 10 houses — five where the “legwork” has been completed, and another five that have been condemned — he wants to tear down by the end of 2018.
After the meeting, he said he has not finalized the list of which homes will come down before this year is finished. But he said the house on Lucca Street where close to 50 cats were found living in deplorable conditions last month is one of them.
A home at the corner of Beall Avenue and North Street that caught fire is another, along with a home located at 144 N. Columbus Ave.
Council unanimously supported the money transfer (7-0), after approving a suspension of the rules.
Jon Ulbright, at-large council member, said there are few times when he sees it appropriate to dip into rainy day funds. But this was one of them.
Monea offered a presentation on the inspection program created in the building standards division in order to focus efforts on cleaning up, and rooting out, problem properties across the R-T district, or the traditional residential homes generally across the south end of town.
These homes comprise more than 1,700 parcels and are homes that were built before 1935.
“We’ve really found a lot of these houses that are in really bad shape,” Monea said.
He added that these often vacant and abandoned homes sap local neighborhoods by reducing property values, and are magnets for drug activity, arsons and squatters.
“So something has to be done,” Monea said.
“This is a true emergency,” said Jon Ansel, at-large council member, who introduced the ordinance.
Several other council members threw their support behind this initiative, as a good use of taxpayer money.
Monea said that since 2012, his department has razed 50 homes across the R-T district, which is generally south of Bowman Street. Already, his department has taken down two homes this year.
But after five years at it, he said the one can notice a real change in the city’s oldest neighborhoods.