Mayoral candidate Wade Kapszukiewicz blasted his opponent, Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, Tuesday over the administration’s failure to demolish a vacant church in East Toledo before it partially collapsed by itself.
A spokesman for Mayor Hicks-Hudson said the building was set for demolition, and charged that Mr. Kapszukiewicz as Lucas County’s treasurer and chairman of the county’s land bank should have gone after the vacant structure for back taxes.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz said no one ever complained to his office, and he said the mayor is a member of the Land Bank board.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz was joined in front of the former church site by neighbors who said they tried repeatedly to alert the city to the falling debris and dangerous condition of the old building. Records show the city received 10 complaints starting in 2015 about the building.
The roof of the former Calvary Bible Pentecostal Holiness Church, 451 Fourth St., fell in on Oct. 16.
“This is an example of Toledo not working. The city failed this neighborhood in its response to this critical issue. This is unacceptable,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said. “On issue after issue city government has been a day late and a dollar short.”
However, the mayor’s office issued a statement that the building was on track to be demolished after it was deemed structurally unsound Oct. 3. Spokesman Carrie Hartman said Mr. Kapszukiewicz could have taken action either as chairman of the Lucas County Land Bank or as county treasurer.
“Instead of putting yard signs in people’s yards he could have moved against the unpaid property taxes. There are actions he could have taken, too,” Ms. Hartman said.
Property taxes for the church were last paid in about 2014. It has a $1,353.87 unpaid tax bill, records show.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz, an unendorsed Democrat, is seeking to unseat Mayor Hicks-Hudson, the endorsed Democrat in the Nov. 7 election. Ms. Hicks-Hudson, who took over in 2015 following the death of Mayor D. Michael Collins, is seeking her first four-year term.
John Truby, 78, who lives across the street from the church, said he attended a community meeting at the East Toledo Family Center about a year ago, where the mayor solicited note cards with people expressing their concerns. He filled out a card but never heard from the mayor.
“I’m asking, Mayor [Hicks-Hudson] where were you all the time we were trying to get you out in our neighborhood, when the walls fell down and the smoke went up?” Mr. Truby said.
He said he reached out to Mr. Kapszukiewicz, who came over on a Saturday in September and inspected the building with Mr. Truby and his wife. Mr. Kapszukiewicz said the building was noticeably leaning, and he promised Mr. Truby that if he was elected mayor he would get the building demolished.
He noted that Ms. Hicks-Hudson has repeatedly cited Engage Toledo, a phone line for contacting City Hall for help, during her campaign. There were 10 calls placed to Engage Toledo from neighbors since July, 2015, a city spokesman said. The spokesman said the concerns about the structure began arriving in March, 2017.
“The reality of the daily lives of citizens like these and what is said on the campaign trail are two very different things,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.
Mr. Truby’s yard has two of Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s campaign signs, as does the next-door house, occupied by Mr. Truby’s daughter and son-in-law. Mr. Truby said he asked for Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s signs after he came out to his house.
The city cordoned off the sidewalk about a week before the collapse because of falling debris.
The building has been fully demolished, and the site has been filled in and partially graded.
A statement from the mayor’s office said that, in response to neighbor complaints, the building was inspected by the Department of Neighborhoods and a demolition order was signed Oct. 3.
“An environmental survey was ordered to determine if there were any hazardous materials that needed to be dealt with during demolition, and demolition services were put out for bid,” the mayor’s office said.
“All was on track for a successful and timely demolition until high winds moved through the region on October 7, further weakening the building and the roof structure such that the building began to collapse in the center on Monday, October 16,” the mayor’s office said.