Neighbors of a house on West White Street in Summit Hill, that has bricks falling and might be in danger of collapsing, found out last night there's little they can immediately do about the situation.
Summit Hill Borough Council listened to their concerns but were advised that any action against the owner of the property, or any demolition done by the borough, must happen through legal channels, which could take time.
Meanwhile, "bricks are falling down constantly," said one neighbor. "It's a safety hazard big time."
A woman added that birds are getting into the structure and it appears that there is more buckling on the exterior wall of the three-story building.
Attorney Michael Greek, solicitor, said the borough would have to obtain a judgment against the owner of the building before any municipal action can occur. To obtain a judgment, a court hearing must be held.
He said the borough must attempt to obtain funds from the owner to do any demolition work, especially since the borough doesn't have funds for such projects. The legal process involves placing a lien on the property in question and then finding out if the owner has other available assets from which to obtain funds for the demolition work.
"It takes time," said the solicitor.
Greek said remedial action can occur by the borough, such as cleaning up bricks which have fallen, "but we can't tear it down without due process of law."
"What's our next move?" asked council member Bill Chapman.
The solicitor responded that it has to go through legal channels.
"Your problem is you don't have the money in place to do the demolition," said Greek.
The problems began last Labor Day. At the time, the house at 38 W. White St. was being rented by Ken Cathcart, his girlfriend Brandi Johnson, and their two children.
Shortly before noon that day, Cathcart heard a very loud noise while he was resting in his second-floor bedroom.
An entire section of an exterior, side wall – an area about eight feet wide and 10 feet high at the top of the house – fell onto a sidewalk, the falling bricks crushed a section of chain-link fence that separates the house from a neighbor's. Immediately, borough officials condemned the property.
Borough records indicate the home is owned by Michael Perno of Quakertown. A problem is that Perno is currently incarcerated in prison. This has prevented borough officials from serving violation notices to him regarding the apparent continuing deterioration of the house.
When the side area of the house collapsed, Carbon County Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Nalesnik remarked, "The building is not structurally sound."
The neighbors who were at the Summit Hill Borough Council meeting echoed this concern last night.
Greek admitted that the situation becomes more complex if it is determined Perno has no additional assets.
The council agreed to get an estimate for demolition to present to the court in case a judgment can be secured.