Most residents of Greenwood Street in the Seek section of Coaldale keep their homes and lawns tidy and well-maintained. But three abandoned homes, one of which was gutted by fire several years ago, are trash-strewn eyesores and are drawing rats, roaches and snakes, neighbors say.
A group of angry and frustrated Greenwood Street residents attended a borough council meeting Tuesday to again beg officials to do something about the situation.
Tom Sullivan, who lives at 111 Greenwood St., told council that the homes, at 119-121 and 127 Greenwood St., need to be cleaned up or come down.
"We're tired of it," he said.
The neighbors have been doing what they are able: Jamie Nicholas has been mowing the grass, for example. Another neighbor, who lives at 129 Greenwood, which is attached to 127, worries that one of the cats living in the abandoned half will fall down the chimney. She's seen them perched on the edge.
The problem, said Councilwoman Nancy Lorchak, is that the borough lacks the money to demolish the buildings. Also, said Councilman David Yelito, it must first have the deeds to the homes before being able to tear them down.
According to Schuylkill County property records, 121 Greenwood Street is owned by a Michael Swaen, who bought it from Wachovia Bank for $18,000 in February 2005. The house burned at least four years ago, but nothing has been done to clean up the mess.
The house at 119 Greenwood is owned by Jean D. Pillion, who bought it from Swaen for $1 in December 2005.
Neighboring 127 Greenwood is owned by Christopher and Eleanor Gallagher, who bought it from Mary, James and Carl Davison for $25,000 in April 2007.
Addresses for the owners were not immediately available early Wednesday. Council has attempted to communicate with the owners, but to no avail.
Councilman Tom Keerans said the borough has tried to get grants, but none of the applications have been successful. Yelito said he would call Schuylkill County grants coordinator Gary Binder to research any possible way to obtain demolition money and demolish the houses without having the deeds in hand.
Sullivan offered to tear down 119-121 himself. However, president Susan Solt said solicitor Michael Greek, who was absent from the meeting, would need to advise the borough on whether or not Sullivan would be permitted to do that. She said the borough could be held liable if someone was hurt while doing the work.
"I'm sorry we can't do anything. Our hands have been tied with the deed issue," she said.
At this point, Solt said, the only thing council can do is to repeatedly cite the owners. That led to a round of discussion critical of part-time Code Enforcement Officer Mark Richards and whether the borough should hire a full-time officer.
The lengthy and often heated discussion prompted a frustrated Councilman Joseph Hnat to vow to have the problem resolved within two months.
"Something will be done," he said.