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A partially-burned sofa sits on the porch of 224-226 Grand Ave. on Friday in Cumberland. Residents of the South End neighborhood say they are frustrated with the blighted, unoccupied property and want something done to remedy the situation.

Steve Bittner/Times-News
timesnews

CUMBERLAND — What makes the house at 224-226 Grand Ave. that much worse is that Ron McDonald has 20 beautiful rose bushes a couple of doors up the street.

In addition, directly across the brick street, Betty Evans’ home is spotless, inside and out. And Vieda Page just paid to have new sidewalk installed.

These and other Grand Avenue neighbors, deeply vested in their South End neighborhood, are frustrated. They are angry, too, that a ramshackle, dangerous, ugly structure — unoccupied for eight or nine years — remains and worsens. They wonder how the owner of a newly remodeled home next to the mess will ever be able to find a renter.

“We’ve been fighting this for a long time,” Evans said. That fight has included a petition and numerous visits to city officials seeking help.

Page said one of the problems with such homes is that they are often owned by distant financial institutions, sometimes by way of foreclosure.

This home is owned by Meadow Financial, LLC, in the District of Columbia, according to online information from the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation.

“We see kids go in and out of there all the time,” Page said. “Animals, too.”

Entrance is not difficult. One door is missing and another sways with the wind.

A fire in June added insult to injury.

Kathy Rummer, McDonald’s daughter, wrote in a letter to the editor in Friday’s Times-News that the fire was a result of the manufacture of methamphetamine, an illegal drug.

City Fire Marshal Shannon Adams responded.

“There was a fire on the first floor in that building on June 14, but it was intentionally set by three juveniles who were formally charged and are going through the juvenile justice process,” Adams said. “There was no evidence at that time of a meth lab.”

Adams said he was joined in his investigation by a Maryland State Fire Marshal.

A fire- and water-damaged couch remains on the front porch at 224-226. Weeds, some as high as 7 feet, visually and physically block a side yard.

“It seems like South End has a bad name,” Page said. “This is a chance to do something about that.”

In a June letter to Evans, Councilman Brian Grimm announced that students from the Center for Career and Technical Education would take on the rehabilitation of the home, but that option has fallen through.

“We want to look at preservation in the future as a project for our students, but that particular home was not one we are able to do right now,” said Principal Deborah Bittinger on Friday afternoon.

A call Friday morning from the Times-News to Cumberland Code Enforcement Officer Chuck Winebrenner inquiring about city action at the Grand Avenue structure was not returned.

In June, however, speaking of problem homes in general, Winebrenner told the Times-News, “There’s not a whole lot we can do about it. We try to pursue against the owner. ... We’ll get judgments against that individual, take it to court and look at doing a sheriff sale. If nobody buys the property, though, it defers to the city along with the mortgage and the city is not trying to pick up more debt.”

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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