The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


July 18, 2011

Sunbury blight list shrinks

SUNBURY — More than a week after the city released a list of 40 blighted or vacant houses targeted to be cleaned or razed, 24 owners scrambled to fix properties.

That list is now down to 16.

Mayor David Persing announced June 27 the city would be looking at properties in order to “clean up Sunbury.”

 “We needed to do something, and we are now working with the courts to make this possible,” Persing said. “All we need to do is show proof of how many letters and calls we made to the owners of these places, and then we can gain control of the properties and have auctions.”

Persing kept to his word. As of June 28, the city had acquired four properties by court order — 144 South St., 83-85 N. Eighth St., 1031 N. River Ave., and 810 N. Sixth St. All have been granted to the city at a cost of zero dollars by Northumberland County Court.

The cost of demolition is about $25,000 per home, and even though the city has $300,000 set aside for redevelopment, it can use only 30 percent a year, or $90,000, for demolition, said Jamie Shrawder, a block grant specialist at SEDA-Council of Governments.

City officials don’t plan on knocking everything down at once, but did say they will concentrate on the worst and try to have sales for the rest.

“It is time we clean up,” Persing said. “Some of the spots are good spots for other houses or maybe townhouses.”

In order to be determined a property is blighted, code enforcement officials visit the property and make an assessment before reporting to City Council, code officer Joe Swope said.

The project took time getting started because locating owners wasn’t easy, Persing said.

“They move and just let the properties behind,” he said. “Just because we have a name doesn’t mean we can find the person.”

The city sent letters to all homeowners and gave fair warning.

“Some of the letters we sent out we got back because the people didn’t live at their new place of residency,” Persing said. “And then some of the people just didn’t respond to us.”

Property owners can challenge Sunbury for their homes, city solicitor Michael Apfelbaum said.

“Typically, no one does,” he said. “We want to clean the city up and I think that people want us to clean the city up.”

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