The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

May 24, 2013

Urban decay creates hazard for schoolkids

Building across from school collapses

By Michael Roknick
Herald Business Editor

SHARON — Sharon schools Superintendent John Sarandrea shook his head Thursday afternoon as he surveyed a partially collapsed building across the street from Musser Elementary School.

“This is not good. This is dangerous,’’ he said.

Even though the brick structure had been blocked off with yellow safety tape, he wasn’t satisfied. Much of the second floor had collapsed around the stairwell, and the front of the building overlooking the sidewalk was buckling.

Looking across the street to the school, Sarandrea wondered aloud what might happen.

“There’s more of this building that’s going to come down at any time, and if a student is near it, heaven help them,’’ he said. “This building is life-threatening and has to be demolished – right away.’’

Sharon Code Enforcement Officer D.J. Harkabus said he reached the same conclusion.

“It poses an immediate life and safety hazard,’’ Harkabus said late Thursday afternoon. “We’ve completed all the work to begin an emergency demolition.’’

That could begin as early as this morning, weather permitting, Harkabus said.

Harkabus said he is quite familiar with the building at 629 Leslie St. The combination house and commercial structure is believed to have been vacant for years. It bears the name Arrow Builders Inc. on one section. That company, a general contractor, is listed at the address in city directories from a decade ago.

When he was previously called to investigate the property, Harkabus said he found the owner had died and didn’t leave it to anyone.

“It was at a standstill,’’ he said. “But it was on our proposed demolition list for later this year.’’

But once he got a call Thursday that part of the building had collapsed, Harkabus said he was able to swing into action after seeing the dangerous state of the structure. He called Sharon Fire Chief Terry Whalen, and the two agreed an emergency demolition was in order.

The city’s community development department was contacted to begin the process of an emergency demolition. The department is responsible with ensuring funding is available and contacting contractors for the project.

An approval also was secured from the state Department of Environmental Protection, a requirement since part of the structure was a commercial building.

Harkabus said Musser school officials were asked to announce to students to stay away from the building and to send a letter home asking parents not to park in front of it.

Sarandrea said automated phone calls would be made to Musser students’ homes.

“I’m telling parents to make sure their children stay away from this building,’’ Sarandrea said.