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Attorney general visits neighborhood in city

February 25, 2012
By DAVE GOSSETT - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - Fourth Ward Councilwoman Angela Suggs has a vision for her North End neighborhood, and she is hoping Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine can help restore pride to the community.

Suggs, along with several city and county officials listened as DeWine stood in front of a dilapidated house on North Eighth Street on Friday afternoon to discuss the $75 million he plans to share with communities throughout Ohio in the fight against blighted neighborhoods.

"I appreciate you coming to the Fourth Ward. Our city is coming back and we are excited. I see great potential in this neighborhood. Our Fourth Ward residents have a lot of pride," Suggs said.

Article Photos

REMOVING BLIGHT — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, left, talked to Steubenville Mayor Domenick Mucci prior to a press conference Friday afternoon on North Eighth Street. DeWine was in the city to discuss a $25 billion state-federal settlement that will see Ohio receive $335 million. DeWine wants to send $75 million to communities to ease dilapidated housing issues. - Dave Gossett

"One of the biggest things holding us back from moving forward is the vast number of abandoned and vacant homes littering Ohio. They are blight on our communities, rotting them from the inside out. It is time to help liberate our neighborhoods from this menace. It is time to free our citizens from the weight that is slowing our state's recovery. We will allocate $75 million to help rid Ohio of the blight that is paralyzing our communities. This is $75 million to tear these houses down. This is $75 million to give Ohio a chance," said DeWine.

DeWine has been visiting communities across Ohio since he announced the multi-million settlement two weeks ago.

DeWine stood with local officials in front of a vacant dilapidated house on a street of several vacant and dilapidated houses.

Steubenville Building Inspector Anthony Bodo said the house is one of 53 houses listed for demolition in the city.

"We are creating a new matching grant program to provide much-needed funding to help free our neighborhoods. As Ohio attorney general, I believe we have an obligation and a moral imperative to help stabilize the value of the homes that remain occupied in these dying neighborhoods to give them a fighting chance to survive.

DeWine said his staff will be working with Mayor Domenick Mucci and community leaders across the state to put together the rules and regulations for applying for the financial assistance to demolish dilapidated buildings.

"We are here to help. We want this money to go as far as it can. The mayor has said matching funds may be a problem. But we will work though this. We won't be able to knock down every dilapidated house in the state but this money will help. I am an optimist. I see these neighborhoods coming back. I guarantee money is coming to Steubenville," said DeWine.

"We want this to start fairly soon. And I can tell you we will be looking favorably at communities that have a plan for redevelopment. That's important," added DeWine.

"The entire state of Ohio should be thankful we have an attorney general who wants to help bring pride back to the neighborhoods," said Mucci.

And Steubenville Police Chief Bill McCafferty said the vacant and dilapidated houses "often serve as an attraction to children. And many of these houses are dangerous."

"This program will help the city move forward with our vision and our 10-year strategic plan that is bringing the city back," noted City Manager Cathy Davison.

"As I walk on this street I see the real victims and those are the people who still live in this neighborhood. They may have lived here for years. Nobody should have to live with these houses in this condition. Coming here allows me to talk to people in the neighborhood who want to see improvements to the neighborhood," DeWine stated.

"And I know there have to be residents of Jefferson County who will benefit from Ohio's share of the $25 billion settlement. We settled with six banks involved in the mortgage foreclosure settlement and are working to reach a settlement with the remaining financial institutions," said DeWine.

He added his office also will make available $20 million for a separate grant program to provide direct assistance to efforts that help protect Ohio families and individuals who are at risk of foreclosure or have already lost their home.

"Finally, I will set aside $2 million to expand efforts in my office to go after con artists and scammers who prey on economically distressed Ohio families. Foreclosure rescue and debt relief scams are complex and require hundreds of hours to investigate and prosecute," said DeWine.

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