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Published: Monday, 6/9/2008

Toledo weighs deals on nuisance work

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The vast majority of people who owe the city of Toledo money for razing nuisance buildings, cutting grass and weeds, or clearing away debris never pay up.

Over the past two years, the city has collected just $35,000 out of $4.1 million billed to current and former property owners.

Most recently, the city knocked down a massive, 35-unit, brick building at 2640 Monroe St. after more than four years of court battles with owner Omar Sadin.

The $43,000 cost to demolish the building will be billed to Mr. Sadin, but even city officials aren't expecting a timely check.

So the city could soon offer a deal for anyone with a delinquent invoice for demolition or cleaning up nuisance property.

Toledo City Council this week will review a Finkbeiner administration proposal for a new "code enforcement amnesty program," said Kattie Bond, the city's director of neighborhoods.

"We are going to forgive a portion of a bill that is owed in lieu of them paying us," Ms. Bond said. "We may say, 'You pay us half of the amount and we will forgive the rest,' and we will probably do it on a sliding scale or set percentage."

The low collection rate is because of difficulty finding property owners, Ms. Bond said.

Even if the city does locate the owner and obtains a court order to pay up, it's still easy for a reluctant property owner to claim he has no money.

The city has torn down more than 75 nuisance structures this year as part of its goal to raze 300 annually. In addition, city crews have boarded up houses, cut lawns for absent landlords, towed junk cars away, removed graffiti, and hauled away junk from private property.

"If we don't do this, it ruins the neighborhood," Ms. Bond said of the nuisance abatement program. "We have to try to at least rid the neighborhood of nuisances because we feel it's our responsibility."

In a highly publicized case, a dilapidated, rat-infested, trash-filled house at 1628 Greenwood Ave. was torn down May 13. Susan Frederick, city manager of code enforcement, said the owner fled to another state.

Andrew Lenz, who was charged criminally with multiple nuisance violations and had been ordered to make repairs, owes about $3,300 for the demolition.

More than 5,000 Toledo residents took advantage last year of a city offer to pay back taxes without interest or penalties.

The city exceeded by fourfold its $500,000 goal for the tax-amnesty program.

Of the money collected, approximately $1.2 million came from individuals, about $600,000 was from business net profit tax delinquencies, and $200,000 came from employer withholding. The recovered taxes were from 1972 to 2005. One person paid more than 22 years of taxes.

City council will review the new amnesty proposal tomorrow at its agenda review meeting.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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