The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

June 27, 2014

County judge orders demolition of house

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

HERMITAGE — Within two months, a decaying house at 831 Knobwood Drive in Hermitage probably will be demolished.

At the request of the city, Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas R. Dobson ordered the razing within 50 days. The owners, who did not attend Thursday’s hearing and have not responded to city notices, have 30 days to appeal the ruling.

Rachelle Garm, who lives next to the abandoned house, applauded the move.

“I would like it flat,” she testified. “I don’t want to smell it. I don’t want to look at it.”

City Inspector Russell V. Penn Jr. testified that the condition of the house has deteriorated just from January until his last visit Wednesday.

Richard D. Givens bought the house in 2007, but abandoned it by 2010, moving to Hawaii. The demolition petition also names original mortgage company Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Danville, Ill., and Bank of New York, which now holds the mortgage.

Penn said neighbor complaints started in 2010, about the inground swimming pool. He inspected the pool, found tadpoles, frogs and mosquito larvae, and an unsatisfactory fence, he testified. Penn sent Givens two property maintenance-violation notices, neither of which he responded to.

Further complaints led Penn to enter the house and he condemned it in January 2013, he said.

He testified Thursday the house is riddled with mold, mildew and fungus. Water puddles on the carpet, drop ceilings are starting to fall in and the veneer is peeling off a door.

“Breathing in the particulate matter will cause you to leave there coughing for several hours,” said Penn, who has worked for the city for 22 years. “This by far has been the most environmentally unsafe structure I’ve been in.”

Stanley Koehlinger, a structural and forensic engineer based in Bolivar, Ohio, told largely the same story from his January inspection.

The stench “hits you in the face,” he said.

Although he did not pull walls down, Koehlinger said he expects the studs and joists would be covered with mold.

“This was by far the worst I’ve ever been in,” said Koehlinger, a licensed engineer since 1974, and Pennsylvania-licensed since 1985.

Dobson asked Koehlinger if the house is salvageable.

“In my opinion, no,” he said. “It is a danger, it is a health hazard. In my opinion, it ought to be destroyed.”

Garm testified the smell returns every spring, along with the mosquitoes and frogs. Although the city drained the pool last year, it is filled up again, Penn said.

“Who wants to look at that every day?” Garm said.

Dobson also allowed the city to fill in the pool and place a lien on the property.