LIBERTY - For township residents, a longtime source of dangerous and illegal activity was finally erased Tuesday afternoon in a cloud of smoke.
The Liberty Township Fire Department conducted a controlled training burn of the last remaining structure on the abandoned property of the former Barclay Apartments.
The 32-unit apartment building along Naylor Lloyd Road was last occupied in 2006. The complex once consisted of five separate structures, but since 2011, the other four buildings have been destroyed by a series of fires.
With the help of an $84,000 state grant, township officials decided to finish the job, bringing down the last structure, formerly called Liberty Square Apartment.
"We received hundreds of calls from that area wanting us to burn it down and get rid of it," township Administrator Pat Ungaro said. "The EPA generally doesn't approve controlled burns, but they did with this one."
The grant is part of the Ohio Attorney General's $75 million program to reduce blight state-wide.
"We worked it through the county commissioners and Julie Green," Ungaro said.
The building would have been razed months ago, according to Ungaro, if not for asbestos located on the property.
Last week, the township was alerted that the asbestos had been removed.
"There were a lot of steps that we needed to go through to make it happen, and we had to get all of that prep work done with the asbestos," Trustee Jodi Stoyak said. "We wouldn't have been able to afford this if not for that state grant."
With most of the building now gone, the township will level the property in the coming weeks.
Ronald Newell, who lives directly across the complex, said while he appreciates the township's efforts to get rid of the building, he was not alerted of the controlled burn.
"I was at a job site and a guy that I work had to run and get some tools," Newell said. "When came back, he said he saw all the smoke and said my house might be on fire. I'm really the only house in that area of the street."
Newell made frantic phone calls home before finally being notified by his wife that it was the vacant apartments being brought down.
"I asked her if it was a controlled burn, and she had no idea," Newell said. "The least they could have done is let me know. I've got my dog on a chain outside and he could have died from smoke inhalation. Plus, I have my son in there.
"Everything and everyone would have been inside if they just would have notified me."
Still, Newell said the area will be better off with the buildings gone.
"It was an absolute eyesore," he said. "I don't know how many times I've walked over here at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning with a baseball bat to chase people out of here."
While she apologizes if there was no notification given to the Newell's, the property was a constant source of problems.
"We had nothing but complaints there, and that probably includes complaints by the people across the street and all of the residents in the vicinity," Stoyak said. "The police have also had issues of people hanging out in there.
"Anytime you have vacant buildings like that, it is going to attract illegal activity and things people don't want in their neighborhood. We just wish we had the money to get rid of more of these eyesores."