East Liverpool to Consider Relinquishing Former School Property

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio — Initial steps taken Monday by City Council’s finance committee could pave the way for development of property where the former East Junior High School stands abandoned at 500 Maryland Ave. in the city’s East End.

Committee members voted during their meeting to forward an ordinance for council’s consideration at its regular meeting Aug. 2 that would transfer the school building and the approximately six-acre parcel of land to the city’s Community Improvement Corporation (CIC).

The CIC was formed in 1982 to serve as a nonprofit agent of the city, charged with promoting industrial, commercial, research and other economic development. The CIC operates with fewer restrictions than a government body in selling properties with no bidding requirements.

The transfer agreement for the East Junior High property notes that the CIC has, or intends to locate, a buyer. The city wishes to authorize the CIC to sell the property in order to stabilize the economy, create jobs and provide opportunities for residents.

Formerly part of the East Liverpool City School District, the property was swapped in 2012 by the district with city property on Pope Street, which school officials planned to use for additional parking. While there have been a few attempts to utilize the building by civic and athletic groups, it has otherwise not been in continuous use since the exchange.

Mayor Greg Bricker told the committee he and others have been working with Tetra Tech, a Cincinnati firm, to address asbestos in the building, saying that while he knows it has an asbestos issue, he does not know how difficult it will be to remove.

In addition, he said the building has suffered from vandalism and the effects of winter weather over the past couple of years.

Bricker said it will be easier to handle the asbestos problem if the property is in the CIC’s hands. Tetra Tech will conduct all studies, abatement and demolition, as well as application for grant funding for the cost of those steps, he said.

“It must be in the CIC’s hands to facilitate this,” Bricker emphasized.

Although Bricker said the CIC would retain ownership of the building, committee member Ray Perorazio said, “Once the CIC gets the property, council should have a say in what happens to the property. I know we don’t legally, but I would like to have a say.”

Chairman Fred Rayl asked the timeframe to remediate the asbestos. According to Bricker, if everything goes without a hitch, six months would be the soonest, but a more realistic timeline would be a year, considering Tetra Tech would also have to apply for grant funding.

Once council takes action on transferring the property Monday, its status is also on the agenda for a special meeting of the CIC’s property management committee called for Tuesday.

In other economic development matters, the finance committee is asking council to consider legislation that would expand the boundaries of the existing Community Reinvestment Area, said Planning Director Bill Cowan. The CRA currently benefits single- and two-family homes, making them eligible for tax abatements for certain improvements.

If council approves the proposal, Cowan said, historic buildings in the downtown section will be included in the CRA, both residential and commercial.

Currently, he said there is no incentive for owners of such buildings to make improvements but with this CRA in effect, they also can reap the benefits of tax abatements with no taxes assessed on those improvements.

This move, according to the legislation, would encourage the maintenance of existing structures and construction of new ones, serving to encourage economic stability, maintain real property values and generate new employment opportunities.

Pictured: The abandoned former East Junior High School and its six-acre parcel of land is being considered for transfer to East Liverpool’s Community Improvement Corporation.

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