Jefferson County Commissioners gives loan to land bank

STEUBENVILLE – Jefferson County commissioners gave the county land bank a loan on Wednesday to allow the fledgling organization pay bills until permanent funding arrives in the coming months.

A county land bank was created by state law for Cuyahoga County in 2008. The law was amended in 2010 for 43 other counties.

The land bank will demolish dilapidated structures throughout the county and allow property titles to be cleared of liens. Under the land bank, property and houses can be more easily transferred to a responsible property owner. Banks that have foreclosed on properties can donate the properties to the land bank.

The county will take 5 percent of the delinquent tax proceeds to fund the land bank. School districts supported the measure, even though it means the districts will receive less in proceeds from delinquent tax sales of properties.

The land bank will get about $30,000 in delinquent tax foreclosure money through the end of the year. said Domenick Mucci, Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission director. Mucci said the land bank will get about $125,000 to $160,000 a year through the delinquent tax fund.

The county also is eligible for $500,000 in a state grant. The grant application is due by Aug. 29.

County Commissioner David Maple, who sits on the land bank board, said several areas of the county, including Steubenville, Toronto, Wintersville, Mingo Junction and Knox Township, have been identified to get funding for demolitions once the state grant is received.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said the targeted areas can be altered once the grant is received.

Mucci said the land bank will reimburse the commissioners for the $5,000 in start-up money once permanent funding is received.

Commissioners also agreed to pay the regional planning commission $1,500 a month for administering the land bank.

Maple, Graham, county Treasurer Raymond Agresta, Evan Scurti, county port authority economic development director, and Chris Petrossi, Steubenville Urban Projects director, are the members of the land bank board.

Also, the commissioners approved setting aside funds as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s funding of the Crestview-Belvedere sewage project.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided the county $5,884,000 in loans, with a 2.75 percent interest rate, and $4,979,000 in grants, for the $11 million sewer project.

The federal agency required the county to annually set aside $82,461 in money that can be used to pay for the purchase of equipment for the water and sewer department. The county also has to set aside 10 percent of the annual debt of the project or $25,164 until the amount of money equals one year of debt payment.

The set aside of money will continue until the 30-year bond is paid off.