Program seeks Elkhart County homeowners for lead paint abatement

Meet a Goshen family that is participating in Elkhart County's Lead Hazard Control Program.

Posted on March 29, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on March 29, 2013 at 1:37 p.m.

GOSHEN — More than 100 homeowners will have a chance to get rid of unsafe lead-based paint from their houses with the help of Elkhart County’s Lead Hazard Control Program.

New homeowners Brian and Anna Yoder Schlabach will participating in April. The husband and wife moved away after graduating from Goshen College in 2007. They returned to Goshen almost six months ago to be closer to family after living in Albuquerque, N.M., where their twins, Sophie and Caleb, were born.

The couple found the perfect home for their growing family not far from Goshen College’s campus but, unfortunately, their Realtor informed them that lead paint had been used in the house. Dust generated from lead paint can be hazardous, especially for young children.

The couple got in touch with Carrie Brunson, director of Elkhart County’s Lead Hazard Control Program. The program received a $2.5 million grant last spring to remediate up to 140 homes in Elkhart County by May 2015. Fifteen homes have already been completed, and another 35 are enrolled.

“It was pretty straight forward,” Brian said about his first conversation with Brunson. “She kind of outlined the process of how we would apply for it, and when she found out that we had newborn twins, she told us she couldn’t imagine that we wouldn’t qualify. She told us to get moved in and apply quickly.”

Families that participate the abatement program must live in a house built before 1978, the year lead paint was banned in the United States. At least one child age 6 or younger must live in the house or visit frequently. As part of the program, children must get tested for lead poisoning.

Families must also meet an income requirement, which is set at or below 80 percent of the area’s median income. For Elkhart County, a family of four must earn $47,050 or less. Participants agree to pay as much as 10 percent of the cost to work on their homes based on their income.

A licensed contractor visited Brian and Anna’s house and checked around using a special scanner that detects lead paint. The result was a 15-page report that suggested replacing the front door frame and all of the windows on the first floor of the house. A crew will also replace a closet and shelving in the babies’ room upstairs.

“We lose so much heat through these windows,” Anna said. “Our energy bills are so high, so we’re looking forward to next winter.”

Without the help of the program, the project would have cost the couple $5,462. Instead, they’re paying $287.

“It’s not something we would be able to do ourselves,” Brian said. “I was expecting it would cost a lot. We have nine windows down here on the first floor, so I knew it would be a big chunk of change.”

Work on Brian and Anna’s house will begin April 15. The contractor has blocked out two weeks for the work, but Anna said the project probably won’t take that long.

“I’m curious to see what it’s going to look like,” she said.

The lead hazard control program is still looking for homeowners and landlords to participate, Brunson said. To apply, call 971-4600 or email Brunson at cbrunson@elkhartcounty.com.

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