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Schuylkill adopts $15 fee to fight blight

Published August 17. 2018 12:09PM

Beginning Sept. 4, anyone having a deed or mortgage recorded at the Schuylkill County courthouse will pay an additional $15 to help fight blight.

The fee, adopted Wednesday by county commissioners, is expected to generate about $150,000 a year, said County Administrator Gary R. Bender.

The action is under Act 152, a state law passed in November 2016 that allows counties to adopt a resolution or an ordinance that authorizes the recorder of deeds to charge and collect an additional fee not to exceed $15 for each deed and mortgage recorded, according to the state department of Community and Economic Development.

The money will go into the county’s Blight Demolition Fund.

“The money is earmarked for demolition,” Bender said.

The fund is in need of a boost. The county has spent almost all of a $1.4 million state grant it received in January 2017 to demolish decrepit properties.

“We’ve had excellent participation by the municipalities,” Bender said. “But we have many, many more projects out there that we’re not able to fund, so we certainly welcome this.”

“I think this is a good initiative on our part,” said Commissioner Frank J. Staudenmeier.

“The $1.4 million went real quick. The feedback that I’ve gotten from municipal officials is that we could use a lot more than $1.4 million.

“When you think of it in the grand scheme of things, when you’re buying a $30,000 house or a $130,000 house, $15 isn’t going to make or break the deal. But what it might do is give us the ability to tear down a dilapidated home that’s near your house. It’s only going to increase the value of your home,” he said.

Commissioner Gary J. Hess called the resolution “a great investment.”

“For anyone who is purchasing a home, its almost like an insurance policy,” he said.

The demolition fund would be able to pay to demolish any blighted properties nearby, thus increasing the home’s value.

Further, demolishing rundown properties can help put the land back on the tax rolls, Hess said.

He referred to a statement made by Bender that the fee revenue could be used to match other grants.

“It could help us to leverage some funds,” Hess said.

Strong code enforcement is the first step toward preventing blight, Hess said.

Commissioners’ Chairman George F. Halcovage Jr. thanked the county’s legislative delegation — state Sen. David G. Argall and state representatives Neal Goodman, Jerry Knowles and Mike Tobash.

“They are fighting to try to get us some additional monies to help with the blight problem that we have in the county. We appreciate anything and everything they can do on our behalf,” Halcovage said.

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