In 34 minutes, Larry Modic’s house was down.
A worker operating a huge excavator from Ray Bertolini Construction Co. demolished the Akron house Tuesday morning and was scheduled to tear the house next door down, as well.
“This was pretty easy,” said Joe Bertolini, president of the company. “We do it every day.”
At 8:10 a.m., machinery took down the first chunk of the back of the Manchester Road home.
At 8:44 a.m., the final brick pillar on the porch was felled. All that was left was rubble.
Modic, 57, who has an apartment in Lakewood, was trying to establish residency in Akron.
He bought the brick house near Summit Lake in May for $10,000 and said he was unaware that the city housing division had cited the home for repair issues and issued orders to repair the problems. He spent weekends in the 1925 home, trying to fix it up.
The demolition came after the city won a court fight last week.
Modic had threatened violence during his ordeal with the city about code violations. Akron police took him into custody in January and transported him to a local mental health facility. He then was transferred to the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center’s Wade Park facility.
Police found four loaded rifles, a loaded handgun, two boxes of ammunition and a flak jacket in the house. Modic has not been charged with any crimes related to the threats.
Volunteers helped him remove his personal belongings over the weekend.
The two homes knocked down Tuesday were among 650 vacant or abandoned homes that are to be torn down in the city this year, said Abraham L. Wescott, Jr., development manager of the city’s Department of Planning and Urban Development.
Wescott estimated another 2,000 homes in Akron are potential candidates for demolition.
The effort to rid the city of dilapidated homes, Wescott said, “without a doubt” is having a positive impact on neighborhoods.
Demolitions this year in Akron will be paid for mostly from $3.9 million from the Moving Ohio Forward Demolition grant from the Ohio Attorney General’s office. The money is from a settlement from five banks over foreclosure abuses and fraud and unacceptable mortgage practices.
Modic attended a June meeting of the Housing Appeals Board and was given 30 days to make repairs. At the July meeting, he received 60 more days to make repairs. But at the September meeting, which Modic did not attend, the board voted to condemn the home.
Modic failed to appeal the decision within 30 days as required by law.
Attorney Warner Mendenhall filed a suit on Modic’s behalf last week in an attempt to block demolition, but Summit County Common Pleas Judge Paul Gallagher ruled against Modic and allowed the demolition to go forward.
Other issues addressed in the lawsuit by Mendenhall over the city’s demolition process are still to be heard and decided in court.
Akron officials have said they are researching the possibility that the city will file a third-party lawsuit against the seller of the property to Modic.
Planting a flag
Modic was not present when the home was taken down, but stopped by afterward.
An Akron police officer rescued an American flag that was on the property and gave it to Modic, who then planted it on a side lot next to the remains of his home.
Modic, who served 13 years active duty in the Army and nine years in the Ohio Army National Guard, said he hopes to find a house in Akron and will work for reforms on the housing demolition front. He has even toyed with the idea of constructing a new home on the Manchester Road property.
“It is unbelievable,” he said of the efforts made by local citizens to raise money for another house.
Akron police blocked Manchester Road on either side of the house during demolition. Police Chief James Nice stood by and watched the demolition.
“Modic has really been impressed by the response of Akron citizens,” Mendenhall said. “The people of Akron really understand that what happened was wrong. Larry found so many strangers just want to help him. It is a very touching thing for him.”
Newton Falls resident Missy Thompson, 43, brought her son Tyler, 9, to Akron to see the demolition site and publicly support Modic.
“This just isn’t right,” she said. “This is absolutely not how you should treat people.”
State Rep. Zack Milkovich, D-Akron, has started a fundraising drive to help Modic buy another home. An event will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at 3 Point Restaurant, 45 E. Market St., Akron.
Milkovich pledged to contribute $1,000 to the cause and said he has identified several houses in the Summit Lake area for under $10,000. He said he also has a list of numerous individuals and vendors who are willing to help Modic. About $2,500 has been pledged so far, including Milkovich’s donation.
To donate to the fundraising effort for Modic, call Milkovich’s office at 330-810-2007 or go to www.savelarryshouse.com.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.