There was no Schuylkill County Commissioners meeting Wednesday because it was the fifth Wednesday of the month which was a by-month because the schedule of meetings are by-weekly work sessions and public meetings each month.
However, the commissioners were not idle as they participated in a demolition program in New Castle Township where two dilapidated structures were finally razed under the county's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.
Several boards in the past attempted to remove the eyesore without success but under the direction of Gary Bender, a man of many titles, who has charge of the CDBG program, finally was able to accomplish the unsurmountable task.
The properties, 250 and 252 Darkwater Road, New Castle Township, located about a half mile north of Walmart Store in Saint Clair, became dilapidated after the owners died with no heirs and went unsold after the county acquired the properties for non-payment of real estate taxes. The properties were put up for sale at the annual judicial sale conducted by the tax claim bureau with no buyers. Finally the commissioners purchased the buildings and earmarked them for demolition.
County Administrator Mark Scarbinsky said the properties have long been called "Poster Child of Blight," in Schuylkill County because the homes were strategically located along a major traffic corridor, SR61, visible to all who passed through the county. Scarbinsky said there are multiple properties throughout the county which have a disconnect because they are owned by vacant landlords or deceased owners without family to keep the properties in a desired state. He said the county will continue to assist local governments to work toward blight elimination.
The demolition took place late yesterday morning.
Attending the ceremonies were the three commissioners, Frank Staudenmeir, George Halcovage and Gary Hess, Scarbinsky, County Engineer Lisa Mahall, Christy Verdier, representing State Senator David Argall, Attorney William Burke, solicitor for New Castle Township, former County Commissioner Francis McAndrew, and Bender.
Bender reported for the past 14 years the County-Wide Demolition and Rehabilitation program has been an effective tool in removing blight and hazards that diminish the quality of life in the county. It was created and funded, in part, by the commissioners to address the problem.
Since 1998 the program has removed 259 blighted structures and rehabilitated 57 adjoining structures in 25 separate communities at a cost of $3,298,856.12. Through tough code enforcement 23 structures were removed or rehabilitated by the negligent property owners at no cost to the program.
The funding for the program comes from the following sources:
May 1997 state DCED Revitalization Grant of $250,000; November 1997 Pine Grove Landfill Host Fee Agreement, $125,000; December1998 CES Landfill Host Fee Allocation, $289,000; 1998-2003 Act 137 Allocation, $232,882; 1998-2012 County CDBG Allocation, $1,166,567.19; 2005 DCED Blighted Structure Grant, $67,000; and Local Municipal Share Allocation, $1,168,406.93 for total funds expended, $3,298,856.12.