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Published: Sunday, 10/26/2003

Health officials target rundown Fostoria houses

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Seneca County health department has added six vacant houses in Fostoria to a list of local properties that must be repaired or razed, widening a crackdown on rundown buildings.

The county health board acted Thursday night at the request of Fostoria Mayor John Davoli, who said the city objects to plans by some of the property owners to use the empty homes for storage.

In a letter to the health department, Mr. Davoli said the city's zoning code prohibits such use in residential areas.

“This is absolutely unacceptable,” the mayor wrote. “I agree with the health district that the houses shall either be made habitable or demolished.”

The properties added to the county's condemnation list include two houses at 320 South Poplar St., owned by Claude Funk, Jr.; a house at 1016 Cherry St., owned by Marvin L. Pearce, Jr., of Goldsboro, N.C.; a house at 324 East Jones St. owned by Reginald J. Bowers of Fostoria; a house at 323 Anderson Ave., owned by Claude Funk, Jr., and Mary J. Funk, and a house at 405 East Fremont St., owned by Wayne and Joni Ann Conley of Fostoria.

The county also condemned a house at 28 Liberty St. in Bloomville owned by Paul W. and Charla J. Walker of Attica, Ohio.

The houses must be made habitable or torn down at the owner's expense by May 1, 2004.

Laura Wall-Rabenstein, environmental director for the health department, said the county is trying to speed up action to fix or flatten nuisance properties.

“If they're making progress, if they're doing something, we'll work with them,” she said. “If they sit on it and do absolutely nothing in six months, we will prosecute and try to get something going.”

But Ms. Wall-Rabenstein acknowledged that when the county has taken property owners to court, proceedings have been slow. A recent demolition of a house on Huron Street in Tiffin occurred only after two years of legal proceedings.

Besides the houses condemned last week, the health department previously condemned four other houses in Fostoria, plus one just outside the city.

In an interview, Mr. Davoli said the houses in question “are in bad shape.”

“Overall, the housing stock in town is great,” he said. “These stick out like a sore thumb. ... There's some trash problems with some of them. Some of the roofs are real bad. The residents living next to these houses do not deserve or need to put up with something like this.”

But Mr. Bowers, who has lived on Jones Street for two decades and owns six properties there, said there's no reason to tear down the house at 324 East Jones.

“It's not the most perfect property,” he said. “It's not the worst. ... This corner looks better right now than it has in 20 years.”

Mr. Bowers said the condemned house “is a gutted-out shell” where he keeps tools and power equipment, including two riding mowers, a cultivator, shovels, and rakes.

Mr. Bowers, 43, said he has been disabled since an industrial accident in 1996 and can't afford major repairs.

“I really don't need these people hassling me,” he said. “Part of my problem is the funds it's going to take to do this stuff. They're going to want me to put siding on it, at the least. That's going to be a few thousand dollars, at least. I ain't got it.”



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