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Belmont County Land Bank Accelerates Action To Raze Bellaire Structure

photo by: Robert A. DeFrank

The Belmont County land bank is accelerating plans to demolish a crumbling former school in Bellaire following further deterioration resulting from rain and storm damage.

The condition of a dilapidated former school in Bellaire is forcing a tough financial decision at the county level.

The crumbling building on the south end of Guernsey Street has been in the news before. In May 2021, a portion of the front facade collapsed and the street had to be partially blocked. More instances of falling bricks occurred recently, causing plans to raze it to accelerate.

The Belmont County Land Reutilization Corp., aka the land bank, now owns the building and will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday to discuss this and other matters.

There are no demolitions scheduled yet, but Bellaire Police Chief Dick Flanagan, who is also the village code enforcer, oversees the dilapidated properties.

Hill said the board originally intended to group all the buildings to be razed into a single bid, but this likely will not be possible. He said he could not speculate on a price at this point, but he noted it is an all-brick three-story building.

“It’s going to be a costly endeavor regardless, because the building itself is so large. But it’s going to have to be attended to sooner rather than later, it’s not something we can just wait to put it in a package with the other structures that we’re going to be tearing down,” Hill said.

Flanagan warns the public to keep their distance.

“The street was blocked off so nobody could go by it in case anything were to fall out into the street,” Flanagan said. “It’s one of five that they’re going to tear down here in the very near future.”

He does not know the age of the building, but it has historical significance.

“It’s the first high school that was ever built in Bellaire,” he said.

Cumberland Trail Fire District Chief Tim Hall, a land bank member, said bids will be due at 4 p.m. Aug. 15 at the treasurer’s office at 101 W. Main St., St. Clairsville, OH 43950.

“The board intends on awarding that project Tuesday due to the potential risk and hazard it poses to the residents around there and anyone who might be passing by,” he said. “We’re just trying to streamline the process to make sure the work commences in a timely fashion. … We’re hoping work commences on that no later than Aug. 26, we hope before.”

Belmont County Commissioners Josh Meyer and Jerry Echemann are board members of the land bank. After a brief commissioners’ meeting Wednesday, the commissioners declined to comment on the issue until the Tuesday meeting.

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