Belmont County ‘Land Bank’ Acting On Asbestos Removal

The Belmont County Land Reutilization Corp. took another step Tuesday to assist the village of Belmont with asbestos abatement in the former school building there.

The corporation, also known as the land bank, will be footing the bill for the abatement, which should allow the village to proceed with demolition of the 1915 structure. Board members Josh Meyer, Jerry Echemann and Scott Porter approved, as did Kathy Kelich, who also serves as Belmont County treasurer. Board member Greg Reline was unable to attend.

The land bank authorized Director Tim Hall to bid out asbestos removal for the former school, which the village bought for $1 in 1998 from Union Local School District. The building, which had been an elementary school since the late 1950s, has since fallen into disrepair.

Kelich said delinquent real estate tax assessment funds totaling $89,000 have been transferred to the land bank from the treasurer’s office for the purpose of asbestos abatement.

“This project will still remain a project of the village (of Belmont),” Kelich said. “The property will not be transferred to the land bank. … I want to remind the board that this project will not utilize any (Neighborhood Initiative Program) funds, or funds from the land bank itself.”

In answer to a question from Echemann, Kelich specified that the fund from the treasurer’s office can be used for delinquent tax collection or for land bank purposes.

“My office is going to fund that completely. This is not costing anything for the taxpayers. This is not costing anything for NIP,” she said.

Belmont Mayor Stan Sobel thanked the land bank for this aid.

“By ourselves, we could never have done this,” Sobel said.

“We were happy to be able to help,” Kelich said.

Sobel said afterward that the initial estimate for asbestos removal came in at close to $200,000, but the land bank was able to provide another evaluation, which halved the cost.

Pease Township Trustee Michael Bianconi commended the land bank’s activity.

“You guys at the board have really shot this thing ahead, and I really appreciate what you’re doing,” he said.

“That’s a very hard place to find funding (for asbestos removal) to take care of a building like that,” Pultney Township Trustee Frank Shaffer said. “I commend this board and the treasurer’s office for coming through. … It’s hard to remove asbestos from school buildings and large buildings.”

“I wish we could take on the entire project. Unfortunately, we can’t, but we’re taking on the biggest burden, removing the health hazard,” Kelich said, thanking Shaffer and Bianconi for their experience and insight into the state of dilapidated properties and options for demolition.

Kelich said work would begin as soon as possible in the next few months, with completion of demolition hopefully before the end of the year.

Sobel said the village hopes to use the property as a green space for the community.

“A park setting with benches and things,” he described, adding that the cost of demolition following the abatement should be $45,000 to $65,000. “Fortunately, we put aside money for demolition, and so after they do the abatement part, we’ll hopefully very soon afterwards demolish the building.”

In other matters, the land bank accepted a bid from Edgeco Inc. for $13,000 for the demolition of an Oak Street residence in Bridgeport.

Kelich added that bids are due May 24 for asbestos abatement at 24 S. Penn St., Martins Ferry; 108 Oak St., 134 Second St. and 106 Cherry Ave. in Powhatan Point; and at 4676 Harrison St. and 4241 Franklin St. in Bellaire.

“At our next meeting, we’ll be able to review those,” she said.

Kelich reported there are no new updates from the NIP. As matters stand, funding will run out by the end of the year and there has been no announcement from the state about possible funding.

The next land bank meeting was set for June 4.

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