The Wood County Health Department has been trying to work with the owner of the dilapidated Woodville Mall for months in order to get the 42 year-old structure back into code.
Brad Espen, Wood County director of environmental health, said his department has been trying to work with the owner, Mehran Kohensieh, LLC, of Little Neck, New York, to no avail.
“We became involved with the current situation last March and attempted to work with the owner to make the necessary repairs,” Espen said. “The owner has not responded in writing to our notices of violation. We did speak with him on the phone and he indicated that he did not have the financial resources to make the necessary repairs to the structural components of the mall.”
Espen said the health department has received numerous complaints over the last few months.
“Several complaints have been received concerning the leaking roof, no heat and the mold issues,” Espen said adding the complaints have come from a variety of sources. “The owner has tried to make repairs to the roof, but those attempts have been unsuccessful and the situation has become much worse over the last few months.”
Officials from Wood County, including the health department and the City of Northwood, toured the mall on Monday. What they found was a leaky and collapsing roof and ceiling, mold, wet carpeting, no heat and an inoperable fire suppression system.
“He (Mehran Kohensieh, LLC) owes Columbia Gas $13,000. and they will not turn on the gas until the bill is paid,” Espen said. “The primary issues were the same, but have become much worse since March. The roof is beyond simple repairs at this time and is in need of replacement as it is collapsing.”
Espen added that beyond the roof collapsing, the mold issue is a health threat to the safety of those working in the mall and customers visiting the structure.
“The mold issue is a serious health concern throughout the structure,” he said. “The fire suppression system is inoperable in sections of the mall. The owner is not doing anything to remedy these situations to allow the mall to remain open.”
On Monday, Brian Ballenger, Northwood law director, said the public’s health and safety was of utmost importance.
“The health concerns and safety of the citizens walking in this mall are paramount,” Ballenger said. “We care deeply (about the businesses). In the City of Northwood, we don’t want to close down anything. We have serious concerns about safety.”
Ballenger said that although city and county officials have not reached the end of their “legal rope” concerning the mall, he did expect the mall to be closed “within days.”
“We have spoken to them (owners) and they have indicated that they do not have the funds to do any more work on the mall,” Ballenger said. “I’m saying that we don’t have a lot of choices regarding taking care of the safety of the people. I don’t know if it will be padlocked by the end of the week. I would think there will be something in the courts before 10 days.”