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Council cautious on school demolition

By MAX FILBY
STAFF WRITER

Findlay City Council decided Tuesday not to rush action on razing a dilapidated former school at 1001 Blanchard Ave.

Findlay City Schools has asked City Council to tear down the former Huber School, now a privately-owned property.

(READ MORE: Some former Findlay schools face different fates after closure)

On Tuesday, council twice voted against suspending its rules and hurrying passage of an ordinance that would allow Safety-Service Director Paul Schmelzer to immediately seek and accept bids for demolition.

“It is a danger to public safety,” said 4th Ward Councilman Tom Klein.

The legislation was given the first of three required readings on Tuesday. Some council members indicated they may suspend the rules and hurry passage of the ordinance at their June 21 meeting.

Once bids are advertised and accepted, council will still have to appropriate money for the demolition.

If council eventually approves, the building may not be demolished for several months, Schmelzer said. He wants to put the cost of the demolition on the property owner’s tax duplicate.

At-Large Councilman Jeff Wobser, who voted against suspending the rules, said he thought more time should be taken before council makes any decision. At-Large Councilman Grant Russel, who supported suspending the rules on the second vote, agreed with Wobser that timing was an issue and that the public should have more time to consider possible demolition.

First Ward Councilwoman Holly Frische asked officials if there was anything the city could do instead, such as boarding up the building’s windows and doors.

Schmelzer said boarding up the building would not be an adequate solution. He said if there was another option available, officials would consider it, but demolition is an appropriate action to take considering the building’s condition and location.

“If it were to be redeveloped, which is a severe stretch, it would face limitations because it’s in the flood plain,” Schmelzer said.

Findlay officials have been trying to contact the building’s owner, Yusheng Ji of California, for close to a year, said Law Director Don Rasmussen. Rasmussen said he was able to get ahold of Ji briefly one time, but has not been able to contact him since via phone or mail.

Mayor Lydia Mihalik said this would not be the first time the city has had to demolish structures, such as garages and homes, that pose a safety risk that owners have not resolved.

Separately Tuesday, City Council approved spending $427,000 in grant money to repave all city alleys east and west of Main Street. Alley repaving will likely take place this fall, Schmelzer said.

The street department is also planning repaving for all alleys north of the Blanchard River.

Council also unanimously approved an ordinance appropriating $110,000 from the city’s revolving loan fund to assist Waldo Pepper’s restaurant at 411 S. Main St. in its remodeling.

The business will reopen as “Legends Steakhouse & Sports Bar.”

Council also heard from Kelly Lowry, an account executive at Compmanagement. Compmanagement handles the city’s Ohio workers’ compensation program.

Lowry credited the Findlay auditor’s office with saving the city more than $1 million through various program refunds, rebates and reimbursements. Auditor Jim Staschiak said the savings came as a result of efforts from every city department.

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