Heights

Three Middleburg Heights nuisance homes finally face demolition

MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS, Ohio — Homes on three nuisance properties in Middleburg Heights are getting closer to demolition after nearly a one-year process to get rid of them.

City Council last December voted to pursue razing homes at 7640 and 7705 Eastland Road, as well as one at 19685 Sheldon Road.

The Finance Committee at its Monday (Oct. 5) meeting recommended approval of a $56,350 appropriation to cover demolition costs. City Council is anticipated to pass legislation authorizing the expense during the Oct. 13 council meeting.

It has taken a long time to get to this point, with hearings held throughout the year with the property owners. One owner failed to appear before the city’s Nuisance Abatement Board, which consists of the law director, service director, finance director and the mayor’s executive assistant.

“It didn’t seem they had the cash flow to be able to maintain the property or even get it up to any certain minimum standards,” Service Director Jim Herron told the Finance Committee.

Mayor Matt Castelli previously said the city does not take lightly decisions to raze structures.

“It’s important we go through all the necessary processes to give everybody a fair chance to correct the issues with their properties,” Castelli said, noting that a Cuyahoga County Board of Health sanitarian, Middleburg Heights housing inspector, assistant fire chief and building commissioner all had deemed the homes unsanitary, unsafe and structurally defective.

Tests will be conducted on the three homes to determine if asbestos is present. If detected, it will need to be removed prior to demolition. In addition, trees will need to be trimmed at the 7640 Eastland Road property before machinery and trucks can enter.

More than a dozen commercial and residential sites in Middleburg Heights have been declared nuisances, and structures on them removed, since December

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Warrensville Heights contractor sentenced to 15 months in prison for bribing Cleveland official

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A contractor from Warrensville Heights was sentenced to 15 months in prison Tuesday for bribing a Cleveland official.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Boyko also ordered Eric Witherspoon, 56, of Arick’s Environmental Services and Arick’s Services, to pay a $5,000 fine for bribing Rufus Taylor, the former chief of the city demolition bureau.

Witherspoon pleaded guilty to charges in September 2019 involving the payment of $3,000 in cash to Taylor for helping the contractor get on a bid list for a demolition job on Parkwood Drive in Cleveland.

That enabled Witherspoon to win a roughly $147,000 contract and a quick inspection, according to court records.

Federal prosecutors said Witherspoon paid Taylor “for non-public information about an upcoming demolition job with the city and for Taylor to use his official position to ensure that [Witherspoon] would have the opportunity to bid on that job.”

Witherspoon is the second contractor to be sentenced in the case.

Martin Fano, the former owner of ABC Construction, pleaded guilty in June 2019 to bribery-related charges involving Taylor. Fano paid $460 to Taylor to finalize paperwork more quickly and provide Fano with the necessary signed permits. Boyko fined $4,000 and placed him on probation for a year in September 2019.

Taylor worked for the city for 30 years and retired in 2018. He pleaded guilty in September 2018 to charges of extortion and bribery in a federally funded program. He admitted to taking thousands of dollars in bribes from two contractors and gave them preferential treatment for government-funded demolition and abatement projects.

The judge set his sentencing hearing for November.

Witherspoon’s attorney, Andrea Whitaker, said Taylor sought out Witherspoon.

“Based on all of the facts that we now know, it is apparent that Taylor was a rogue city official who was perhaps in need

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