Veteran's home torn down in 34 minutes; effort under way to raise money for another

By JIM CARNEY | Akron Beacon Journal | Published: February 6, 2013

AKRON, Ohio — In 34 minutes, Larry Modic’s house was down.

A worker operating a huge excavator from Ray Bertolini Construction Co. knocked the Akron house down this morning and was scheduled to tear the house next door down as well.

“This was pretty easy,” said Joe Bertolini, president of the company. “We do it every day.”

At 8:10 a.m. the machinery took down the first chunk of the rear of Modic’s home.

At 8:44 a.m., the final brick pillar on the porch came down and all that was left was rubble.

The demolition of the home of the Lakewood veteran, who had threatened to kill city officials over the demolition of the Manchester Road home, came after the city won a court fight last week. Modic’s attorney, Warner Mendenhall, tried to stop the demolition of the 1925 brick home on Summit Lake.

Volunteers helped Modic remove his personal belongings over the weekend and a fund-raising drive has been started by state Rep. Zack Milkovich, D-Akron, to raise money to help Modic buy another home.

After the threats were made, Modic was taken into custody by Akron police in January and taken to a local mental health facility, then transferred to the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center’s Wade Park facility. Modic, 57, has not been charged with any crimes related to the threats.

The two homes knocked down on Manchester Road are part of an anticipated 650 vacant or abandoned homes that are to be torn down in the city this year, said Abraham L. Westcott, Jr., development manager of the city’s Department of Planning and Urban Development.

Westcott estimated another 2,000 homes in Akron are potential demolition candidates.

The effort to rid the city of dilapidated homes, Westcott said, “without a doubt” is having a positive impact on neighborhoods.

Demolitions this year in Akron will be paid for mostly from a $3.9 million from the Moving Ohio Forward Demolition grant from the Ohio Attorney General’s office. The money is from a settlement from five banks over foreclosure abuses and fraud and unacceptable mortgage practices.

Modic, who was attempting to establish residency in Akron, bought the house last May for $10,000 and said he was unaware that the city housing division had already cited the home for repair issues and issued orders to repair the problems.

He attended a June meeting of the Housing Appeals Board and was given 30 days to make repairs. At the July meeting, Modic was given 60 more days to make repairs. But at the September meeting, which Modic did not attend, the board voted to condemn the home.

Modic failed to appeal the decision within 30 days as required by law.

Mendenhall filed a suit on Modic’s behalf last week in an attempt to block demolition, but Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Paul Gallagher ruled against Modic and allowed the demolition to go forward.

Other issues addressed in the lawsuit by Mendenhall over the city’s demolition process are still to be heard and decided in court.

Akron has said it is researching the possibility that it will file a third-party lawsuit against the seller of the property to Modic.

Modic was not present when the home was taken down, but stopped by later.

An Akron police officer at the scene rescued an American flag that was on the property and gave it to Modic, who then planted it on a side lot next to the remains of his home.

Modic, who served 13 years active duty in the Army and 9 years in the Ohio Army National Guard, said he hopes to ultimately find a house in Akron and will work for reforms on the housing demolition front. He has even toyed with the idea of constructing a new home on the Manchester Road property.

“It is unbelievable,” he said of the efforts made by local citizens to raise money for another house.

Akron police blocked Manchester Road on either side of the house during the demolition. Police Chief James Nice stood by and watched the demolition.

“Modic has really been impressed by the response of Akron citizens,” said Mendenhall. “The people of Akron really understand that what happened was wrong. Larry found so many strangers just want to help him. It is a very touching thing for him.”

Newton Falls resident Missy Thompson, 43, brought her 9-year-old son Tyler to Akron Monday to see the demolition site and publicly support Modic.

“This just isn’t right,” she said. “This is absolutely not how you should treat people.”

An event to raise money for Milkovich’s effort to help Modic will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at 3 Points Restaurant, 45 E. Market St., Akron.

Milkovich has pledged to contribute $1,000 to the cause and said he has identified several houses in the Summit Lake area for under $10,000 and has a list of numerous individuals and vendors who are willing to help Modic. About $2,500 has been pledged so far, including Milkovich’s donation.

To donate to Milkovich’s fundraising effort for Modic, go to www.savelarryshouse.com.


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