FISI Makes It Happen?

Back when I was a WoMbat, through the course of the day, the group of us would trade info back and forth via email, and bounce ideas off of each other. If it didn’t get shot up too badly, we’d give it a try. 

Through email conversations with Scott and Michele and Loraine, “Fame It – Shame It” was born in August of ’07. There were lots of properties in Lorain that were literally falling down. And Brian Hazelett had a list longer than my arm stored up in his noggin. So, cooperating with Bill Desvari (he’s not the bad guy folks think) of the Building Dept. at one point, we started featuring the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. And we got results.

With a new administration, the results continue.

In the local paper, Tony K announced his intention of razing decrepit houses and buildings. Three more from FISI fame are on his list. In this FISI at WoM, the first property listed is 2313 Elyria Ave. One that didn’t make it into a FISI but did get submitted to the Building Dept was 332/334 W. 17th St. (Actually, I did mention it!! In a letter to Tony K!)

On April 16th, as a favor to my friends Scott and Michele, I did a piece about 1401 W. 19th St. This beast has been gnawing on the neighborhood, and causing consternation for a few years. It’s also on Tony’s list.

I’m going to find out from Tony what else is on his list (try, anyway). And I will cover the progress of the above listed properties. And I will bring it here to you.

What I need you to do is bring me MORE. Buster’s Momma has been wonderful to me in providing photographic fodder for FISI, here and here and HERE!

You want to see Lorain cleaned up? Let’s do it!! Get me more addresses and I’ll get YOU more FISI. And, with time and money, Tony K will get the City to clean up more messes.

Did FISI make all this happen? Good chance. Three of the first six listed by Tony K were ones that I made an issue about. That’s pretty good. And it’s a start. Help me get more houses. And hopefully, Tony will find a way to bring’em down.  

WE can make this happen. But, WE have to work. Together.

(In response to Kendra’s comment, it would be easier for me to get the pics and upload them rather than anyone else. All I need you folks to do is get me addresses. You can post them here, or email me at heneryhawk1@yahoo.com)

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Sometimes the Work Pays Off

Thanks to Loraine and Paula for bringing it to my attention, it seems a project I started over a year ago is finally paying off. I did a series called “Fame It – Shame It” that spotlighted homes and businesses that needed attention, both good and bad. One of those buildings was 1444 Broadway. What did it look like? Here are my pics:

1444 Broadway

1444

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1444

1444

1444

1444

1444

1444

Loraine sent me this link this morning to the story on the Chronicle’s website. Check this out!

That’s great! I was really worried that someone would end up getting hurt in this building, too. Glad to see I was wrong. I will do my dangedest to be down there Friday to get some pics, and if I’m lucky, even some video!!

And even though he’s being pilloried in the press, some credit does go to Bill Desvari for getting the ball rolling on this. He had been in contact with the original owner, and then when he started paperwork, the property was sold. One of our last email exchanges included comments from him stating that they were working with the new owner on getting this razed, as the owner wanted it taken down, too.

So, there ya go, folks. Things do get done in this city, it just takes some time, and some patience.

And knowing whom to contact helps a little, too.

Bill Desvari: An Interview – Parts II and III

 I asked Bill what he would need from the city. He commented that cooperation from council would be nice. People in this city need proper housing and it needs to grow in value. He’s been looking for point-of-sale inspections for a long time. There are problems with the lease to buy, that is offered by landlords, as they don’t want the inspections.

Some of these landlords should be in jail, considering what happened to a local family whose house burned down due to electrical problems with the house they were living in. The problems in the house were known months in advance. A question was posed why a rental inspection never happened and it was claimed that a land contract was in effect. The land contract was offered in 2000. However, the land contract expired due to the family, with which it was agreed, faltered on it in 2002, and then a new family moved in. There was no new inspection. If the inspection would have happened, the problem would have been found.  With point-of-sale, the inspection would have happened, but they’re not required with rentals. The landlords can’t keep renting these deathtraps to people.

I posed the question on how many inspectors he’d need, and he replied that it would be hard to put a number on it. Tony’s going to pass the ordinance for exterior inspections, requiring them every 3 years. Only an interior inspection if the homeowner wants it or if the condition dictates, or if rodents are seen running in and out, and then the health department would inspect it. In the long run, if everyone cared about the condition of the exterior then the property values wouldn’t go down as much, but the landlords still are not caring about the health and safety of the interior and the people living in them.

Profit is not a dirty word but don’t make it your god. You gotta have a little bit of heart for the people that are living there.

There have been situations where the inspectors needed to be flea-bombed and cars cleaned out due to the condition of the houses they have to look at.

A lot of the renters are to blame as well, because they don’t even clean up after themselves. He’s seen some really deplorable houses where he’s had to crawl across piles of garbage to shut down an electrical panel because of a fire in the house.

There are a lot of good landlords that have rented to horrible people, who don’t take care of the house. They feel that if they’re paying rent they can do whatever they want. They kick in the walls because they’re angry. This could be taken care of by having the inspectors come in and inspect the house, and then they’d have a witness should they take them to court for the damages.

That was the end of our interview, as he had an appointment to keep. Bill and I traded emails after that, and I attended a meeting he held in November of 2007 that discussed what the city needs. His help was instrumental in what played out after this post went up (follow through the comments).

This is Parts II and III combined together as the remaining audio/video that I had was not as much as anticipated.

Bill Desvari: An Interview – Part I

Bill Desvari has been getting some serious headline time in the local paper. Having recently been put on administrative leave, he is being investigated for complaints charging dereliction of duty, intimidation, conflict of interest, and issuing improper building permits.

In the past, I took a number of jabs at Bill, largely due to the condition of a lot of houses in the city that were falling down, peeling paint, etc. I even started a regular feature, which will continue here later this year, called ‘Fame It – Shame It’, where I featured a number of houses that needed some attention, and some houses that deserved some applause. (I later ended up working with Bill on this feature, as an extra set of eyes, getting the city to act on a few houses, and even got one building razed.)

At the advice of a friend, he thought it would be a good idea if I sat down with Bill and had a one-on-one, and got his side of the story, get his point of view on the city situation. Considering the articles I’d written, I thought it was only fair that he get to meet with his accuser. We traded some e-mails, a few phone calls, and Bill and I met for coffee at Chello’s Thursday August, 16, 2007.

Bill was a very open person, very talkative, and a lot friendlier than the picture the Journal uses would indicate. He has a good sense of humor, cracking jokes occasionally, and was not offended by the articles that I had written, as it ‘comes with the job’. This is Part 1 of a 3-part series, as I taped the interview we had. (Getting it transcribed was time-consuming and I’m still working on the rest, so bear with me, please.)

All of the article below are comments from Bill, most are not direct quotes, as I’ve tried to put them together into something that flows well.

At the time of this interview, Bill told me there were 10,340 rental properties in the city of Lorain. Ordinance 126.97 requires housing inspections every 5 years. It’s never be enforced, and at a charge of $50 apiece, why wasn’t it happening, since it could bring in over half a million dollars? Most of the owners live outside the city, and really don’t make too much of an effort to keep up their properties. He went to then-Mayor Craig Foltin about this, and it took 18 months for anything to happen. (Craig’s being a part of the LELA have anything to do with this?-hh)

When the ball finally got rolling, with then-Council-at-Large Tony Krasienko watching close to make sure things ran correctly, two inspectors were able to do 1700 inspections in 2006. But it wasn’t as easy as that. One inspector had health problems, another substance problems. For the most part, in 2006, there was only one inspector working at any given time. And that was made more difficult by the fact that most of the owners were hiding and not responding to inquiries.

The Landlord’s Assoc was asked to provide addresses. The Law director told him they couldn’t fine the people, as it was an infringement of 1st amendment rights. Mark Provenza reviewed it for a long time, and Desvari told him the fine is already in Ord. 1501.99, anything in Chapter 15 can be fined $1000, that it’s been there since 1978. He was not blaming Mark, but it hadn’t been used, and now they’re able to take people to court.

Craig Miller called him and told him that Kent Sutton only wanted to do exterior inspections. It was a start, but the insides should be done. But due to the lack of inspectors, Miller said he should only do exteriors, and at 1.5 to 2 hrs per inspection, they would have to do approximately 250 per week to do what they were expected over the course of a year. Nothing had been done to enforce the ordinances or codes in 20-some years. The legal system used to take years, because the case would get bound up for 6mos to a year, and nothing would get enforced due to the time of year. Someone would get cited for high grass, and by the time it came to court it would be December or January, and the judge would tell the homeowner we’ll see when the snow melts.

The system is set up to fail, and it needs revamped, and he’s been asking for action on it. Ordinance 126.97 was illegal, it had been plagiarized from the International Property Maintenance Code, and the source wasn’t cited. Being plagiarized was a big part of its being illegal, and in the language, a Certificate of Occupancy is mentioned. A CO is given and not rescinded, and the code said it was only good for 5 years, thus creating an illegal document. Unless there was a catastrophe or it was burned, that affected more than half the property value, the CO could not be revoked or time-limited. The language needed changed, and the Renter’s Certificate needed inserted instead of the CO.

Running it through council took it a year and a half. It was put in committee, and the councilman that put it in committee was scared to act on it. Bill doesn’t care about politics, which side you’re on, R or D. He just cares about the code. Instead of changing the language of the code, they changed the frequency of the inspections. It started out as exterior inspections; Tony Krasienko wanted interior and exterior inspections, as did Bill, and Eddie Edwards wanted it done every 2 years, interior and exterior. Now it’s $50, every two years, but he still doesn’t have the manpower to do this. Asked for 8 more employees, with people calling off sick, and taking vacations, he was limited with what could be done. Secretaries went from four to two, and with vacation, he was down to one, and closing the office at lunch time and breaks.

At the time, Bill was a voting member of the International Co-council for New Building Codes, where he would review and approve upcoming new codes; Chairman of the Bylaws Committee for Stow Ohio Building officials Association, Chairman of the Code Interpretation Committee for Ohio Building Officials Association, and President of the Ohio Building Officials Association of Northeastern Ohio.

There were 223 cities involved in an ISO (International Organization for Standardization) audit, that deals with procedures and processes followed in business and manufacturing. Lorain was #220 on the list. Because he adopted the codes that he did, with the education that he pushes, the city came in at #5 on that list recently. Bookkeeping and record keeping have improved a lot.

He had four certifications when he hired in, and now has 13. The city used to pay out over $90,000 for plans exams per year for things that used to be farmed out to Vermilion, and he does it now. Craig Miller promised him a raise, it didn’t happen, but he wasn’t worried about it. He wanted to help the city. Bill is very thrilled with his family, very proud of his family and their accomplishments. Getting hired, he got a waiver from Craig Miller for his residence in Columbia Station (language in the job requirement dictated that the Chief Building Official reside in Lorain). His construction business was signed over to his son due to the requirement that the CBO not have any personal businesses. He didn’t agree with this, how the city could legislate his personal business, but he wasn’t going to make a big issue out of it.

Part II coming soon.