The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

September 18, 2013

City wants burned houses demolished

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

HERMITAGE — The city of Hermitage has asked a local judge to order that the owner of two houses on Baker Avenue knock them down.

Both houses- at 51 and 51 Baker - were damaged by fire and are in danger of collapsing, according to the petition filed Friday.

The demolition canÕt come soon enough for some residents of the neighborhood.

"We'd love to get them demolished because it's bad," a woman said. "There's a lot of garbage that she (former tenant of 51 Baker) left, and tires."

51 Baker was only boarded up last week, she said "It's already been spray painted on," she said.

Police frequently were called to the house and neighbors and city officials suspect it has been "a haven for drug activity," as the city put it in its petition to the court.

The houses - 51 Baker fronts on Baker while 51 is at the rear of the lot - are owned by Joseph J. Toth of Sharon, according to the petition.

The city has had no contact with Toth or anyone representing him, other than sending him condemnation and enforcement letters he has not responded to, said City Manager Gary P. Hinkson.

The house at 51 Baker was damaged by fire on March 24, 2010, has never been repaired and has been condemned, the city said.

The city was informed by a neighbor Sept. 5 of a fire at 51 Baker - a fire that occurred two days earlier and was never reported, the city said. A woman was living in the house with children but "refused to call the fire department," the city said.

The house also has been condemned, the city said, although a neighbor said the resident did not want to move out.

In investigating 51 Baker, officials found that 51 Baker was open and has dozens of tires in it, which the petition said is "indicative of a person's intent to set fire to a structure."

Hinkson added that there was evidence of activity inside 51 Baker, including signs that kids have been playing there.

Neighbors have seen people going in and out of the houses and officials believe drug and possible other criminal activity has occurred there.

The house at 51 Baker contains piles of garbage several feet high and has raw sewage in the basement, the petition said.

"We're looking forward to seeing those houses go," another neighbor said.