Troublesome vacant homes loomed large over Tuesday's Coaldale borough council meeting Tuesday.
Ruthanne Kehl and her husband Ron, of 134 W. Ridge St., pressed council for action on the attached house at 132 W. Ridge. The house, vacant since 2010 when its owner, Lisa O'Brien, was evicted due to unrepaired water leaks, is infested with mold, harbors rats and is filled with abandoned household items, including food. The Kehl's have tried for more than a year to get council to clean out or demolish the house.
The house was finally condemned in April, Ruthanne Kehl said.
She asked council what the next step is, and when it would be taken.
Council members said O'Brien would be served with papers ordering her to either clean up the mess or face court. However, they said, O'Brien could not be found.
Kehl said O'Brien lives on Leisenring Street in neighboring Lansford. She said Coaldale Police Chief Tim Delaney found out the address after pulling O'Brien over at one point.
"She's not hiding," Kehl said.
Council president Susan Solt said too, knew where O'Brien lived, but that "nobody pays attention to me, either."
Ron Kehl said O'Brien's house is a mess, and that groundhogs are breeding under the porch.
The Kehl's continue to be frustrated with the situation.
In a related matter, Harry Hontz of 114 E. Ridge St. complained about the adjacent vacant house at 116 E. Ridge. He said the hedges are so overgrown he can't use the sidewalk to his house, and that the eaves of the vacant house have deteriorated to the point where they are falling off. He said the house reeks of mold, windows are broken and the grass is high.
Code Enforcement Officer Jamie Lee Nicholas said he's trying to track down the owner. However, Councilman Joe Hnat said he believes she lives in Lansford.
Hnat also told Hontz that borough workers would pick up the trimmings if Hontz would cut the hedge. Hontz had earlier offered to do that if there was a way for him to dispose of the debris.
According to Schuylkill County property records, the house at 116 E. Ridge is owned by Dolores J. and Jacquelyn Rose Urban.
In another property-related matter, council rejected bids by Tom Sullivan and Rebecca Nicholas for a double lot at 119-121 Greenwood St. The borough recently had two dilapidated homes torn down there, and is trying to sell the lots.
However, Solt said the lots have been appraised at $6,500 each. Sullivan had bid $1,8000 and Nicholas $600.
Also on Tuesday, council agreed to give Jamie Lee Nicholas $200 to help offset expenses since he was appointed in October. He'll gather receipts and mileage information so that council in July can determine how much he should receive to reimburse him for gas and wear-and-tear on his truck. Nicholas said the vehicle gets 15 miles per gallon.
In other matters, council learned that the state Department of Transportation has approved a speed limit reduction to 10 mph for Ruddle Street, between Seventh Street and Manila Grove Road. That section of road runs through St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital's parking lot.
PennDOT denied a request to reduce the speed limit from 45 mph to 35 mph on Route 209 near the hospital entrance.
Also, Councilman Thomas Keerans said work will be done on Lehigh Street, between Third and Fourth streets; on Miner Street, between house numbers 54 and 72; and on Ruddle Street, at the intersection near the hospital.
The work is expected to cost about $31,000. The use of shared services could reduce that figure.
The borough also plans to fix a section of street in front of the First Congregational Church.