The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Valley

January 18, 2013

Sunbury mayor expands blight initiative

— SUNBURY — Mayor David Persing is expanding his efforts to rid the city of blight by adding commercial buildings to his plans.

Persing, who in 2012 worked to raze decrepit properties, is assembling a “Mayor’s Action Team” to target abandoned business properties.

Persing has enlisted the help of Charlie Ross, Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.

Ross was instrumental in helping the SEDA-Council of Governments, Winfield, complete “Sunbury — The New City,” the $80,000 comprehensive plan paid for by the municipality.

Ross was responsible for the economic portion of the project and he and economist Anirban Basu, of Maryland, toured Sunbury and found several issues that needed to be addressed.

One was dilapidated buildings, so Persing and Ross decided to continue to work together and form a plan.

And now Persing has one.

The mayor said he will assemble a “group of ambassadors” from Sunbury that will include businessmen and residents who have a vested interest in the city.

“We will be looking for everyone and anyone that has interest in this,” Ross said. “I believe in Sunbury, and I believe this will work.”

Persing and Ross identified 10 properties in Sunbury, but are concentrating on three initially, Ross said. Those are the former Albright church, South Fifth and Chestnut streets; the Bitner Building, North Fourth and Market streets, and the former Runnerless Knits building, North Fifth Street.

“I have had calls from colleges about the Bitner Building already,” Ross said. “We have had interest from many different people.”

Ross said he targeted the buildings months ago and presented Persing with an action plan.

“It took about three months to write,” Ross said. “We are prepared to start taking action here and we want to get as many people as we can behind us.”

Sunbury is full of potential, Ross said.

“I wouldn’t have taken so much interest in this if I didn’t believe that,” he said. “Sunbury is a great city, and if we all work together on this, we believe there will be a huge change.”

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