Resident addresses council regarding forgotten portion of city

CHESTER – Bonnie Merriman calls Montana Avenue the street the city forgot.

The worst part about that is: Montana Avenue is where she has called home for 26 years.

Merriman went to Monday’s Chester City Council meeting, as she has done in the past, to complain about city inaction regarding several unkempt, vacant houses on Montana.

She said four to five properties, including the one next door, are of particular concern. “I’ve been waiting two years for the city to deal with the property beside me, and I can’t wait any longer for the health of my son,” she said.

Montana Avenue sits somewhat isolated on the city’s southwest side, tucked against a hillside with areas of overgrown vegetation. Several houses look vacant and abandoned, with broken windows and doors.

Merriman said she has contacted the Hancock County Health Department about testing her house, 171 Montana Ave., for lead.

Ward 2 Councilman John “Woody” Woodruff and Mayor Larry Forsythe agreed that something needs to be done about nuisance properties on Montana – and elsewhere in the city.

“It’s really unacceptable. It’s terrible. There has to be something we can do,” Forsythe said.

Woodruff said one Montana house, destroyed in a fire about 10 years ago, finally was demolished, only to be “left a mess.”

City Solicitor April Raines said concerned residents should follow the city’s legal process for dealing with nuisance properties, including sending a warning letter, giving the property owner time to address the problem, and issuing a court summons.

Woodruff said he would be willing to sign a court summons for one of the property owners Merriman complained about.

Merriman said one warning letter sat in the mailbox of a vacant home for a month before being returned to the city. The house has high grass, exposed insulation and exposed wires, she said.

The property issues also have led to the proliferation of pests – pigeons, rats, raccoons, opossums and snakes, she said.

Merriman’s neighbor, Trisha (Miller) Lewis, told council she has seen snakes as large as her husband Rob’s arm at the vacant house next door, 182 Montana Ave.

“We have snakes everywhere. I’m really concerned,” Lewis said.

The couple has three young children, and Lewis said she is especially worried about her autistic 2-year-old daughter.

Hancock County Assessor’s Office records show the owner of 182 Montana Ave. to be Richard Bissell II, of East Liverpool. Bissell could not be reached for comment.