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Contractor ready for Lehighton demolition; rescuers able to get some cats out

Demolition of a blighted building in Lehighton where several dozen cats have sought shelter could get underway by Wednesday.

The contractor has begun to mobilize equipment at 135-139 N. First St., borough Manager Dane DeWire announced at Monday’s borough council meeting.

DeWire said the project had been delayed while the contractor obtained a bond.

DeWire said that active demolition is expected to last three to four weeks.

He said securing of the neighboring buildings and site work is expected to last three to four more weeks.

DeWire said the project is expected to cost less than the budgeted amount, therefore the borough should have Community Development Block Grant funding to allocate elsewhere in the borough.

At the end of February, an animal group had taken the lead on rescuing cats from the building as the borough and Carbon County were waiting for bond paperwork to be completed by the company contracted to do the work.

Deemed “dangerous” by officials, the borough has previously aimed for a Feb. 12 start date for mobilization for the property.

Alyson Andrews, a volunteer with Starting Over Animal Rescue, said Tuesday morning “There are still cats going in and out of the building. We are still seeing them up on the third floor in the windows.

“The workers stated they were through the building and didn’t see any cats, but I’m sure they ran or were hiding. It’s very hard to get an accurate count, but I would say at least 10 (cats), probably more.”

Andrews, of Mahoning Township, said four volunteers are actively trapping, and that they just trapped two cats on Monday that will be spayed, neutered and vaccinated.

“Trapping has been difficult because there are a few different people in the area feeding the cats,” she said. “We ask that no one feeds the cats until all cats have been trapped and spayed/neutered.

“Our major concern now is that it is prime kitten season and there will be babies born over there. We are also looking for farms/barns who would be willing to take some of the cats who are not adoptable as a house pet.”

Andrews added they must meet their barn home criteria and can email at soarvolunteer@outlook.com for more information.

Last month, Andrews put out a plea on Facebook asking for help and posted a list of ways for those interested to assist.

Andrews said at that time they needed dog-sized cages and cat carriers; cat food (dry and canned); flea treatment (frontline); pee pads, newspapers, new litter boxes; temporary foster homes (must have feral cat experience); and monetary donations to help with medical costs (spay/neuter, vaccines, deworming, etc.

However, she said Tuesday morning that “donations haven’t been coming in anymore.”

“We are still in need of dry and canned cat food and litter (can be dropped off at Deezines Flowers & Gifts in Jim Thorpe, Carbon County Friends of Animals, Meraki Hair Studio)

Starting Over Animal Rescue Inc. has been trying its best to save as many as possible.

Andrews said in February that Blue Mountain Animal Rescue Society and its founder Donna Crum, had 11 cats they are housing.

In addition, she added that Carbon County Friends of Animals “has donated significantly to fund this mission,” and noted that the Palmerton Cat Project has offered its help as well.

Carbon County officials previously said that a delay in the demolition of the blighted building was not due to paperwork in the county offices, rather the company hired to do the work getting their bond in order.

Lehighton is using Community Development Block Grant funds, which is why the county is involved. Carbon County awarded the demolition contract to Northeast Industrial Services of Shamokin, who bid $186,435 for demolishing and clearing the property.

The demolition of 135-139 N. First St. has been a topic of discussion for several years and has been continuing to deteriorate, creating a potential dangerous situation in the event of a building collapse or fire.

A look at the cats that have been saved before demolition of the building at 135-139 N. First St. in Lehighton. Demolition of the property could get underway by Wednesday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO