Contractors meeting scheduled for Dec. 5
The Richland County Land Bank will host a contractor meeting in partnership with the Ohio Department of Development on Dec. 5 at 4 p.m.. Contractors interested in working with the Land Bank on Lead Safe Ohio projects are encouraged to attend. The meeting will take place at 50 Park Ave. East in Mansfield in the Lower Level 1 meeting room.
MANSFIELD — Amy Hamrick has spent the last 10 years leading the agency that tears down blighted structures across Richland County.
But the manager of the Richland County Land Bank could hardly contain her enthusiasm talking about the agency’s newest project — one she hopes will prevent blight before the need to eliminate it.
The Richland County Land Reutilization Corporation, more commonly known as the Land Bank, has been allocated $1.358 million from the Ohio Department of Development’s Lead Safe Ohio Program.
Hamrick said the Land Bank will use the money to fund exterior rehab projects at homes and other facilities across the county. Rehab projects can include replacing siding, windows, exterior doors, roofs, downspouts, gutters, exterior trim, fascia or soffit.
Funding can also be used to repair or replace porches.
But the project isn’t a blank check for renovations — any work done must mitigate the presence of lead.
Lead-based paint was commonly used in home construction and remodeling until was banned by the U.S. government in 1978 over health and safety concerns. Thus, it’s likely features like wood siding and windows have been covered with lead-based paint in older homes.
Residential properties, including both owner-occupied and rental units, can have up to $50,000 of lead-safe renovations covered. Childcare centers and congregate care facilities are capped at $100,000.
“There’s a huge need for it,” Hamrick said. “Windows have been described to me as the most dangerous because every time you open and close the window, you’re grating that lead paint and turning it into powder.”
Hamrick said she hopes the program can help prevent some of Richland County’s older structures from ending up on the Land Bank’s demolition list.
“There’s been a lot of questions, ‘Well, why can’t you save more of these houses?’ ” Hamrick said. “By the time they get to me, they’re so bad they can’t be saved.
“So it is exciting to think ‘OK, this is our way to do some prevention.'”
Am I eligible for Lead Safe Ohio funding?
Owner-occupants and owners of residential rental property, daycare facilities and congregate shelters can apply for the program if their building was constructed before 1978.
The Lead Safe Ohio program requires the Land Bank to prioritize households with an income at or below 80 percent of the average median income.
However, a household with a higher income can be eligible if the owner can document housing insecurity. For the purpose of the Lead Safe Ohio program, housing insecurity is defined as an uncertainty of the home’s safety and concern that occupants could be jeopardized due to lead-based paint concerns.
Hamrick said the Land Bank will consider every qualified applicant, but will prioritize households with children. Applicants will also have to demonstrate they are current on their bills.
“I know we’re going to get bombarded with applications,” Hamrick said. “We’re going to look at the same things we look at when transferring land.
“You can’t have unpaid taxes. You’ve got to be current on utilities.”
How will the program work?
Property owners will have to apply for the program and agree to work with one of the Land Bank’s pre-approved contractors in order to be accepted. The Land Bank will pay contractors directly for the work.
All contractors will need to be Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) certified.
Hamrick said she is still finalizing the application form, but it will be available soon at the Land Bank’s website. Paper copies will also be available at the land bank office.
The application period begins Dec. 11. There is no deadline for applications. Hamrick said the Land Bank will accept them on a rolling basis.
Hamrick also said the grant requires the interior and exterior of a property be tested for lead after the project is complete. The cost of testing and pre-cleaning the home, as well as administrative fees from the land bank will be included in the $50,000 and $100,000 limits.
“I’m going to hire someone to go in and professionally clean the entire house to get it to the standard that it needs to be at (before the testing),” Hamrick said.
The Lead Safe Ohio program is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act through the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. All funds have to be spent by Feb. 28, 2026.
Hamrick said she isn’t worried about the deadline.
“I think we’re going to run out of money long before we’re going to run out of applications,” she said.
Lead exposure can cause learning and behavior problems in children
Lead was a common ingredient in home paint and other home construction materials through the late 1970s. It’s now known to have serious health impacts if ingested, especially for children.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, even small amounts of lead can cause learning and behavior problems in children. Lead is most harmful to children under the age of 6 and can also be dangerous to a baby during pregnancy.
The housing study released earlier this year found that Richland County has a disproportionately older housing stock. About 20 percent of the county’s housing units were built before 1939 and another 55 percent were constructed between 1940 and 1979.
Lead wasn’t banned from U.S. residential paints until 1978.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, dust from deteriorating lead-based paint is the most common cause of lead exposure for children.
Children can also be exposed by putting pieces of chipped paint in their mouth, as well as licking or chewing on painted surfaces. Lead can also leach into soil or out from lead pipes into drinking water.
Health experts say there is no safe level of lead in a child’s blood. Even at low levels, exposure can lower IQ, cause attention disorders, make it difficult for a child to pay attention in school, delay growth, impair hearing, and more.
Richland Public Health offers free lead testing for children 6 months to 6 years old through its public health clinic as part of the Healthy Homes Program.