The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

May 4, 2013

Whalen eyes more houses for fixup

By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Staff Writer

SHARON — The lawyer and developer who has fixed up six tax-delinquent houses in Sharon and rented them is ready to buy more of the city’s neglected properties.

HomeTown Community Rentals Inc. wants the city to exonerate the unpaid taxes on a list of houses and start the legal process of selling them to be rehabilitated and rented.

Seven of the two dozen properties on the list are near houses HomeTown already has repaired on several streets. Thirteen others are located along Stambaugh and Euclid avenues and East State Street.

Those are “on a main thoroughfare that affect not only the people living in the area but also the perception of those passing through,” said J. Jarret K. Whalen, president of the company whose office is in Mercer.

Whalen also has a law office at 719 Stambaugh.

Another three properties are being offered on Orchard and Malleable streets by owners who want HomeTown to take over because they can no longer afford to maintain them.

At Thursday’s council workshop, city solicitor Bill Madden said empty houses have been a city problem for a long time.

“These have been sold for taxes at least once before and some of them more than once,” he said. “As long as (Whalen) understands that cleaning up the titles will take time, I have no problem with doing the work.”

Preparing the properties to be offered later at a judicial sale will cost about $800 for each for title searches, court costs and sheriff’s advertising. That’s money the city can’t afford if the properties aren’t ultimately sold to Whalen or another buyer, Madden said.

He recommended that City Manager Scott Andrejchak ask Whalen to guarantee that he will bid on the properties once the court finishes its work and the properties are cleared for sale by the county’s tax claim bureau.

Other landlords at the meeting got assurances from Madden and Andrejchak that they would be able to bid on the properties, too, when they are offered for sale.

“It sounds good to me,” council President Vic S. Heutsche said. “We won’t have to cut the grass and maintain them if we can get rid of them.”

Councilman Ed Palanski added his approval for the request but noted that the city has a long way to go to solve its problem with vacant houses.

“The city has housing for 28,000 people but a population of 14,000,” he said. “To think that we can rehab that many houses and put them back to use in the next 50 years is just ridiculous.”

Andrejchak said he has confidence in Whalen’s company to chip away at the backlog of properties waiting for new occupants.

“We’ve gone back to take a look and he’s done a great job with those,” Andrejchak said. “We’re happy that he has an interest in fixing up more properties.”