Use troops for demolition

Several communities in the Ohio Valley could use up their entire annual budgets on a single project — demolishing dilapidated buildings — if they did not have other spending priorities. But critical services must be maintained, so many of the junk structures remain standing.

Several buildings have been razed in Martins Ferry in recent months, with plans for more to come down. The Belmont County Land Bank helps with that work, providing funding for the job and then keeping profits from the sale of the property to fund additional projects down the road.

But Martins Ferry isn’t the only local community facing such issues. Problem properties have been discussed in Shadyside, Barnesville and in several local townships, while the villages of Belmont and Flushing are facing potentially dangerous and costly projects with plans to demolish their former school buildings, which have become dilapidated and hazardous sites.

Local officials seem to be doing all they can to deal with the problem. They have implemented codes and standards and placed liens on problem properties. Still, with absentee owners in many cases, that money is hard to collect.

Officials in Youngstown have come up with what sounds like an excellent idea to stretch their city’s budget for removal of blighted homes. They have called in the National Guard.

This month, Ohio National Guard troops, equipped with heavy equipment, began demolishing unrecoverable buildings on Youngstown’s south side. A total of 28 structures are scheduled to be torn during during the next two weeks.

City officials still must pay to have rubble from the buildings hauled to a landfill — but the Guard’s help is saving the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Government should not compete with the private sector, of course. Officials in our area should continue using demolition companies to remove as many blighted structures as municipal budgets can bear.

But once that money is spent, bringing in the Guard is an appealing option for local communities. Officials should investigate the possibility.