Bellefontaine Examiner

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Local business, vacant buildings discussed

Local economies and how to handle vacant and/or dilapidated structures headlined conversation Wednesday at a regular meeting of the Logan County Mayors’ Association.

A handful of mayors were joined by Sheriff Andrew J. Smith, Commissioners John Bayliss and Dustin Wickersham and Logan County Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Paul Benedetti at the Russells Point Municipal Building for the quarterly gathering.

A common note sounded by each mayor included how to keep storefronts occupied and what to do about run-down houses.

As for the dilapidated housing, Mr. Wickersham encouraged the mayors to get property owners to sign a voluntary demolition form that allows the county to make use of its Moving Ohio Forward grant funding to tear down those structures.

“Right now, we don’t have enough identified structures to use up all of our money,” Mr. Wickersham said. “My goal is to use up all of our money and then go and apply for more.”

Russells Point Mayor Robin Reames said upon learning the county wants to tear down unsound structures, a handful of property owners have come in and started rehabbing the houses themselves.

The mayors also discussed local tax incentives and utility debt forgiveness as ways they could entice potential business owners to fill up empty businesses. Belle Center Mayor Rhonda Fulmer said she has been working actively to find an interested entrepreneur to take ownership of the grocery store there which also includes gas pumps.

She said the building could be purchased for far less than even what it’s worth.

Mr. Benedetti cautioned all the mayors to help educate prospective business owners of possible compliance issues before finalizing a sale.

“A business owner might get a building for $40,000 or $50,000, and then try to do necessary repairs themselves and they run into all kinds of code and compliance issues,” Mr. Benedetti said. “They end up having to put another $40,000 or $50,000 into the building and they just can’t afford that.

“As mayors you can really help educate businesses about those kinds of potential problems.”

Updating the mayors on the Logan County Courthouse repair, Mr. Wickersham said the commission intends to hire a firm to rebuild the courthouse by early May.

“As for how long it’ll take to rebuild, we don’t know,” he said.

Sheriff Smith acknowledged proactive steps taken by both the village of Lakeview and Stokes Township to team up to contract for sheriff’s patrol services in that area. Teaming up that way enables the sheriff’s office to pay a full-time deputy to patrol that area, the sheriff said.

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