The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

September 1, 2013

Demolition dollars

Cost to raze 250+ vacant buildings, houses: $1 million

FARRELL — It would cost more than $1 million to demolish about 250 houses in Farrell that need it, City Manager Michael Ceci said.

There are also a handful of vacant commercial buildings that are eyesores that should be torn down.

It’s a problem Ceci has made a priority in the 18 months he’s been city manager. Prior to his arrival the city’s code office had done its best to clean up the city, Code Officer Mark Yerskey said.

But the city hasn’t been able to earmark enough cash to make a noticeable dint in the blight that’s afflicting the city like a cancerous tumor.

“Blight in our town is a cancer that continues to grow,” Ceci told those who attended a council meeting Monday.

People came to the meeting to ask the city to make good on long-unfulfilled promises to tear down specific vacant houses.

The problem is a lack of cash to take down a significant number of houses each year as that list keeps growing as occupied homes become vacant, then are stripped of anything of value and left to decay.

“I’ve searched for every dollar I can find,” Ceci said.

But state and federal grant money is nearly nonexistent.

The city uses some of its annual Community Development Block Grant for some demolition, but it only covers enough to take down less than 20 or so each year, Ceci said.

In 2014, $76,000 of the about-$300,000 in CDBG cash will go to demolition, Ceci said. The city used previous years’ CDBG cash, plus some economic development money, to take down 34 houses this year.

But that still leaves many problem properties standing, including two in the 600 block of Fruit Avenue that Keith Austin Sr. and his namesake son complained to council about Monday.

Those properties are on the demo list, but haven’t made the cut to actually be slated for removal.

“They have a legitimate gripe,” Yerskey said. “We just don’t have the funding.”

But that’s not entirely the case.

The city does have almost $1 million, more if required repayments are factored into its revolving loan fund.

That money could be used for demolition, or other reasons for that matter, than what it is presently used for, Ceci said.

The cash was originally federal Urban Development Action Grant proceeds.

The now-defunct program, called “UDAG” by those who speak decades-old bureaucratese, was once a part of the city’s lifeblood.

City officials have kept a tight rein on those dollars because “it’s been a prudent thing to keep,” Ceci said.

But it could be earmarked for demolitions in the name of future development, he said.

“It’s still the city’s dollars,” he said.

Council would have to act to spend the money this way, and it’s something he wouldn’t advise rushing approval on, Ceci said.

“But at some point you have to say, ‘OK, can we use this for something greater?’ ” Ceci said.

The rub is that once the money is spent in this fashion, it’s gone.

Before he’d advise such an option, Ceci said a “definitive plan” on how to spend it would have to be drafted and council members would have to each be fully aware of “the ramifications” of spending the money.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Prison term upheld for sex offender

    A sex offender challenging a 4- to 8-year prison sentence for a probation violation lost an appeal of that sentence.

    April 23, 2014

  • Man, 24, must register as sex offender for life

    The Ohio man who exposed himself to Sharon girls on their way to school last fall must register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life when he gets out of jail.

    April 23, 2014

  • Man deemed predator – for now

    A former Sharon man was sent to the state prison system Tuesday for corrupting the morals of a teenage girl, but the question of whether his penalties under Megan’s Law will stand could be subject to future legal proceedings.

    April 23, 2014

  • Not even waste will be wasted

    Tom Darby admits he wishes the startup of the anaerobic digestion process at the Hermitage Water Pollution Control Plant had moved along much faster.

    April 23, 2014

  • 3rd Earth Fest draws families to Penn State

    Penn State Shenango’s Earth Fest has become a spring tradition for area residents.
    Families poured into downtown Sharon for the campus’ third annual sustainability celebration.

    April 22, 2014

  • Amish clean Shenango River Volunteers protect Shenango River

    Shenango River Watchers has spent more than a decade working to clean up the Shenango and improve recreational access to its water and banks.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • For many, recycling’s become way of life

    When Pennsylvania mandated curbside recycling for its larger municipalities in 1998 – those with more than 5,000 people – there was grumbling about government interference in the lives of everyday people.

    April 22, 2014

  • Many items can’t be thrown away

    The computer screen in front of you isn’t likely to do you much harm, at least not until it’s tossed in a landfill where the lead-filled components start to leak and eventually find their way into your drinking water, according to Jerry Zona, director of the Lawrence-Mercer County Recycling/Solid Waste department.

    April 22, 2014

  • David Sykes' solar panels Earthworks

    While touring Germany last year, David Sykes spotted solar panels resting in a residential back yard.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Burned using Icy Hot, woman claims

    A Grove City woman has sued Chattem Inc. and Rite Aid of Pennsylvania Inc., alleging she suffered a second-degree chemical burn using one of Chattem’s Icy Hot pain relief products.

    April 21, 2014

  • Family outing Family friendly

    “We’re No. 5’’ isn’t a sports cheer you’ll hear any time soon.
    But considering the lumps the greater area has gotten over the years on economic rankings, it’s an outright victory.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • To demolish or not Tear it down? Fix it up?

    In 2007, Richard D. Givens bought a home at 831 Knobwood Drive in Hermitage for $245,000.
    Today, the city of Hermitage is seeking the demolition of the now-vacant house, arguing the damage from water infiltration makes the structure not worth saving.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • News briefs from April 19, 2014

    April 19, 2014

  • Man admits having child porn

    A Mercer man accused of soliciting and downloading photographs of nude teenage girls pleaded guilty April 8 to sexual abuse of children for possessing child pornography.

    April 19, 2014

  • Police getting new tool to fight crime

    Sharon police working at crime scenes will be putting a powerful new investigative tool to work as soon as next month.

    April 19, 2014