“[I was interested in this project because] I see the houses end up going into the landfill, just all the wood and lumber going to waste,” said Liotta, owner of the Cartersville-based Outside the Box Construction. “And No. 2, there’s so many people that need work right now and that’s the main reason. ... There were people that were coming up that came from the homeless shelter and every one of them had a story and every one of them needed money. They were all able to take a little piece of this and put it back in the economy.
“When you think about somebody that’s in a homeless shelter that has children — one guy had kids. He had a wife and two kids, and they were staying right over here at the homeless shelter in downtown Cartersville. And he said, ‘You know, if I just had some work I’d be able to get back on my feet.’ And I was able to give him that work and also save this material from the landfill. It is [very rewarding].”
Finishing the project about two weeks ago, Liotta oversaw the demolition of two Cartersville residences — 135 Etowah Drive and 242 Lee St. — whose previous owners were experiencing flooding issues. The seven-day dismantling was the end of a lengthy undertaking by city of Cartersville, which started looking into the matter in 2011.
“Basically, we received some complaints or concerns from several folks who lived over on the corner of Etowah and Lee,” said Tom Quist, assistant to Cartersville’s city manager. “They were having issues with stormwater runoff flooding their properties. So at that time [City Manager] Sam Grove himself and, I believe, Bobby Elliott with the public works department and a few other folks actually went out to check out the properties, and they were in pretty rough shape.
“It just seemed like unhealthy living environments for these folks. They had obviously experienced this before. So it was sort of a repeating problem and had resulted in mold growing in some circumstances and just damp interiors to their homes ruining some of their flooring and things like that.”
The city’s attempts to correct the stormwater issue, such as cleaning out a ditch and trying to channel the water away from the properties, proved unsuccessful.
“So, at that point, we became aware of a grant program through GEMA, which is the Georgia Emergency Management Agency,” Quist said. “It’s called the Predisaster Mitigation Grant and, among other uses for that funding, you can purchase and demolish properties that are flood prone. So we went ahead. We spoke with the homeowners to see if they would be interested in participating in a program like this. Would they be interested in selling their home if they could to kind of get them out of a bad situation? We had three properties that were kind of interested in that. ... [and] we were unable to acquire [one].
“So we applied for the grant. It was actually a pretty drawn-out process as grants often are. It probably took close to two years but finally we received verbal approval from GEMA kind of early on, but there’s a lot of red tape and all that stuff involved. Ultimately, we received funding at 75 percent of the project cost. So the city was required to contribute 25 percent of the project cost and the project costs included acquisition of the properties as well as demolition and site clearance after the demo’s done, making sure that the ground’s stabilized.”
At the beginning of the project, when the city was trying to acquire and clear three properties, the estimated cost was about $330,000. While the city was unable to purchase 149 Etowah Drive, Quist said there is a possibility of acquiring it in the future. Having been foreclosed, the property now is bank-owned and is in the process of being transfered to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“[The materials] have been used,” Liotta said, referring to the two demolished homes. “We salvaged all the block of the foundation. We salvaged about 90 percent of the brick, and actually, somebody up the road got those to do their driveway with. So they’re repurposing them right here in Cartersville to make their yard look better.
“Some of the wood that we salvaged actually went to the old Stilesboro Academy to help with [the] renovation [of its] roof structure,” he said, referring to the pre-Civil War structure eight miles west of Cartersville that served as a school for children in the first through 12th grades from 1859 through the late 1930s. “And I saved some of the older 4-by-4s because the window sills over there were made out of that, out of the 4-by-4s. [So] I was able to reuse those ... All the doors in the house were given to Habitat for Humanity for use and/or resell at their store.
“... I think [salvaging materials is] responsible citizenship. That’s why it’s important. [I do not want] to see it go to waste. And the finances and the expense that went into acquiring them all, it’s just something that’s just going to have to be respent. And then, ultimately, I just think it’s responsible. I’ve got kids and I want to leave as part of my heritage, I want to show them that we’re responsible.”
Although it has been a lengthy process, Quist said he is pleased with the project’s outcome. As required by the grant, the cleared properties will revert back to their original purpose as an “untainted flood plain,” with the city needing GEMA’s permission before building on the lots.
“I think it’s absolutely wonderful,” he said. “The biggest thing for the city is to get good value when we procure services from vendors or contractors, but it’s also important to realize other benefits, such as avoiding waste going to the landfill. And we think it’s great that some of the materials are going to be going to good causes, such as Habitat for Humanity and the Stilesboro Academy.
“... We’re really happy that we had an opportunity to receive the funding that made this project feasible and we’re also very happy with the nature of the demolition of the homes and that so much of that, the materials were salvaged and put to good use.”