Cleveland open again to buying homes, but not saying how many - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Cleveland open again to buying homes, but not saying how many

CLEVELAND (AP) - Cleveland has decided to continue with its plan to buy the homes just south of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, making room for the airport's expansion.

About 300 residences are in the area where Cleveland promised to buy houses two years ago as part of a settlement of a lawsuit.

Officials from Cleveland and Brook Park, the suburb adjacent to the airport, have agreed that Cleveland's commitment is limited to spending $36 million over seven years in the area.

Exactly how many houses Cleveland buys will depend on appraisals and demolition costs.

"Let's let it work and let's see," Brook Park Mayor Mark Elliott said Sunday.

Elliott said the 2001 settlement does not require Cleveland to spend more than the $36 million, but also does not prohibit it from spending more.

Cleveland suspended the purchase program in July, saying the financial crisis in the airline industry and related drop in airport revenues left it without enough money to buy the houses.

The cities negotiated over the summer and last week announced Cleveland would restart the program and make offers to homeowners in the first of six stages in December.

Cleveland Finance Director Robert Baker said a review of the airport's books and a determination that some restricted funds could be used for the purchases showed the airport could spend $36 million over the next few years.

Port Control Director John Mok said recently the airport would move quickly on buying the houses, in part to assure homeowners that the city is serious.

"The best assurance that we can give is through action," Mok said.

Brook Park Law Director David Lambros said his city will monitor the purchases and look at how to keep costs down, possibly by demolishing houses in batches rather than one at a time.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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