By Kaylee Lindenmuth | email@example.com
POTTSVILLE - State, county, and Pottsville city officials gathered today at the site of a demolished property on South Centre Street in Pottsville to tout the completion of a countywide demolition program funded by a state grant, though work still remains to tackle blight in the county.
State Senator David G. Argall (R-29, Rush Township) joined the three county commissioners, county administrator Gary Bender, State Representative Mike Tobash (R-125, Pottsville), and other city officials for the press conference Thursday afternoon.
In January 2017, Argall's office announced a $1.4 Million state grant from the PA Department of Community and Economic Development to fund the program.
"I was very impressed by what the county was able to do with the grant. Early on, we thought it would be 50 structures, but the final total was 79 structures," Argall said. "What's important is not just the properties coming down, it's also what happens next, and in each community, it's a different story. Maybe it's someone that is able now to put an addition onto their home. Maybe they have a slightly bigger backyard. Maybe it's a new business, or, in some cases, it might be new housing, but it's not one size fits all, and it doesn't come to an end today."
Of the eighteen municipalities where blighted properties were demolished through the grant program, Shenandoah had the most at 12 properties, including fire damaged properties in the unit block of Union Street on the east end and on North Main Street, as well as a set at Coal and Race Streets which had been subject to a legal battle between the borough and property owners. In total, 35 properties were demolished in northern Schuylkill communities at a cost of $798,001.60.
Commissioners Chairman George Halcovage commended Argall for his assistance to assist in securing funding for the program.
"This is our future. We always say that Schuylkill County is a great place to live, to work, to worship, to raise our children, and this initiative that you've done with the $1.4 Million has helped us to take care of not only Pottsville but Shenandoah, Girardville, Mahanoy City, Port Carbon, Frackville, it rolled on," said Halcovage.
"Blight isn't just unique to Schuylkill County. It's all over the Commonwealth, but it's a real fight, and you need money to tear these buildings down," said Commissioner Frank Staudenmeier. "We were fortunate to get $1.4 Million off a state legislature delegation a couple years ago, and the funds ran out pretty quick. The commissioners, we created a revenue stream two years ago because we needed to continue to address blight."
Argall cited Delano Township as an example of where the benefits of such a demolition program have been seen.
"We had a land bank rehab, we had a demolition next door, and then we saw people, completely on their own, taking care of the house further up and down the street because they saw good things happening in the neighborhood," said Argall. "Yes, blight can be contagious, but so is community revitalization."
"From our smallest communities to our largest city, it's [the program] definitely needed, and yes, we're still in the hunt for more [funding,]" Argall added.
Halcovage further emphasized the benefits of the demolition program.
"I'm excited about it from the standpoint of what we've been able to do in Shenandoah, Mahanoy City, Delano, Girardville, Frackville, it's helping communities," said Halcovage. "I go back to, for example, in Shenandoah, the burned out properties over by Who's Place, that we were able to get those down. That gives a community hope and gives them a positive feel, to have people come up to us and say that's important."
According to Halcovage, a $15 fee added to deed filing now goes towards blight remediation, which is expected to bring in $140,000 a year for the demolition program, which will go towards continuing the demolition program. While the demolition program has made a significant dent in the problem across the county, blighted properties continue to deteriorate faster than they are handled.
In Shenandoah, the former Martin Shirt factory and Boly's Iron Works facilities have suffered partial collapses within the past few months, and properties at 13 East Laurel, 527 West Arlington, 327 West Atlantic, and 23 South Grant have also suffered collapses in the past year as well. A block away from the site of Thursday's press conference sits a partially collapsed home, marked as a Do Not Enter property by the Pottsville City Bureau of Fire.
"Again, the problem is money. The more we can get in, the more we can do," said Halcovage. "The great thing that we've done with this project is we have shown that the monies we are using are making a difference in communities. If we could do more, we're going to do more. We're going to try to maximize and do what we can to make our communities much better."
Properties demolished by Schuylkill County Demolition Program in northern Schuylkill
136 & 138 W. Ogden St. $13,849.00
1 W. Ogden St. $15,240.00
25 S. John St. $14,400.00
Julia St. $4,489.00
124 A St $33,439.00
124 Main St. $32,625.00
520 W. Mt. Vernon St.$13,950.00
401 & 403 W. Oak St. $13,950.00
129 E. Lloyd St. $17,465.00
7 N. Union St. $39,500.00
9-11 Main St. $39,500.00
300 W. Penn St. $39,765.00
23 N. West St. $23,465.00
319 Cherry St. $23,465.00
39 W. Coal St. $38,465.00
233-235 W. Oak St. $28,465.00
Coal and Race Streets $18,900.00
231 W. Coal St $23,475.00
600 & 602 W. Railroad St. $15,989.00
612 W. South St. $8,289.00
1115,1117,1119 E. Pine St. $23,475.00
412 W. Mahanoy St. $23,475.00
51 S. Lehigh Ave. $42,299.00
60,62,64 N. Lehigh Ave. $46,599.00
1232-1234 Walnut St. $8,600.00
1206 Walnut St. $14,111.00
1830 Market St. $11,500.00
1409-1411 Centre St $15,000.00
1226 - 1228 Main St. $9,948.00
1121 - 1123 Main St $12,489.00
109 - 111 Kelly St. $14,895.00
209 Biddle St. $49,200.60
312 McKnight St $13,562.49
461 & 463 W. Mahanoy Ave. $39,948.00
70 Lakeside Ave. $27,777.00
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