By Kaylee Lindenmuth
SHENANDOAH - After four years, abandoned properties at West Coal and North Race Street have been demolished.
For at least the past two years, two of the homes were four walls standing without a roof, the walls bounding an interior pile of rubble.
Taken down as part of the Schuylkill County Demolition Program, the project to demolish the properties was awarded to Kass's Contracting in October of 2017, one of ten projects awarded to the company through the program. The properties came down in early July.
"The many barriers encountered demolishing the structures provided insight into the numerous difficulties a municipality has to deal with when addressing hazardous, dilapidated structures without the cooperation of the property owner," said council president Leo Pietkiewicz from a prepared statement. "Simply, it is not as easy as the general public may believe. Unfortunately, although Don Segal did not live to see the end result, he must receive some of the credit for initiating the action to address this blighted condition."
Pietkiewicz continued on to credit borough secretary/consultant Joe Palubinsky and Schuylkill County administrator Gary Bender along with Segal for their assistance in the project.
"Without their assistance, we'd still be battling with Race Street," said Pietkiewicz. "That was a four-year battle to get one property down. It's not as easy as the general public thinks."
The property had been at the center of a court battle which saw both Schuylkill County Court and the Commonwealth Court clear the way for Shenandoah Borough to demolish the structure, with the Commonwealth Court's appellate decision coming in May 2017. The property was owned by Carlos M. Cruz, of Hazleton, before the borough's recent acquisition through the tax claim bureau.
Prior to Cruz, the property was owned by his brother and sister-in-law, whom he represented in magisterial district court proceedings regarding the property.
"It is likewise apparent Appellant was provided several opportunities to abate the nuisance conditions at the property and simply chose not to. Having spoken multiple times with the Borough manager in 2014 and represented his brother and sister-in-law in proceedings before the magisterial district judge, Appellant had clear knowledge of the conditions prior to his acquisition of the Race Street property in May 2015," said Judge Joseph M. Cosgrove in his Commonwealth Court opinion and order.
Now, the corner property is an empty lot, and borough council has moved to demolish a property at the center of debate between Shenandoah borough and West Mahanoy Township.
A dilapidated structure at 131 Girard Avenue sits split by the township-borough boundary, which led to debate over who was responsible.
"The property was purchased by the borough for demolition. Although it's physically located in West Mahanoy Township, it's included on the Borough of Shenandoah tax map... therefore it is the borough's responsibility to address," said Pietkiewicz.
Pietkiewicz noted that the borough received three bids for the demolition of the property. They were from Kass Contracting for $6,750, Mr. Z Contracting for $13,000, and Joe Najunas for $6,000.
Pietkiewicz motioned to award the project to the lowest bid, Najunas, on the condition he agrees to payment upon completion, as he included in the bid stipulations regarding payment scheduling.
"He's saying he wants money up front, then as he takes down levels of the house, he wants to be paid," said Pietkiewicz. "We've had other contractors that have given base bid, done it, and then when it was completed, we paid them. If he doesn't agree to the stipulation of 'upon completion, payment in full,' then we go to the next lowest bid, which would be Kass Contracting.
The property had been brought up by a member of the public at West Mahanoy Township Supervisors in June, regarding fears of its collapse.
In other business, borough council: