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TERMITE ISSUE STIRS DISCORD ON AID TO FAMILY

Termite problems that the city neglected for too long have created a costly predictament and are fueling dissension in a South Buffalo neighborhood.

The city's main development agency spent nearly $62,000 in federal block grant money to buy the mortgage of a home on Pries Avenue, relocate the family and demolish the structure.

When crews finished tearing down the home Friday, it was the last step in an unusual transaction. Officials don't remember anything like it happening before.

Now, some nearby residents want similar financial help from the city, claiming their homes have also been damaged by termites.

The problem dates back several years and involved a termite-infested city tree that was near the home of John and Linda Frankhauser. Following delays in cutting it down, Linda Frankhauser said crews failed to treat the soil where the tree stood. That's when the termite problem in her home got even worse.

"My kitchen floor caved in twice, that's how bad it was," Frankhauser said.

She claimed the problem was compounded when a city employee did an unacceptable job treating the home after he offered to do the work on his own time for a fee.

The Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency used block grants -- federal money earmarked to combat blight and poverty -- to move the family. The city negotiated with a lender for a $32,897 buyout of the mortgage, and gave the family $24,000 to help offset the cost of buying a home in Blasdell, plus $5,000 to cover moving expenses and closing costs.

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Linda Frankhauser claimed the payment doesn't make the family financially whole.

David K. Sengbusch, deputy executive director of the city's Office of Strategic Planning, conceded that the city's action is highly unusual. "It wasn't an easy decision for us, but we tried to do the right thing," he said.

"What about doing the right thing for the rest of the families?" asked Terrence Coster, who lives on Pries Avenue. "You can't spend all this money on one family and not offer to help the others."

Coster said the home that was demolished at 24 Pries probably had more termite damage than other houses, adding that he's not criticizing the Frankhausers. But he said a number of residents feel strongly that they deserve some amount of compensation.

Sengbusch said he was unaware of any unresolved termite-related problems in neighboring homes.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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