The National Guard boarded up 18 properties throughout Shamokin as part of the unit’s “Clean and Seal” Program, an effort designed to keep trespassers and drug users out of the buildings. It’s certainly not the look anyone wants in their community.
It is a small step forward in a number of directions, but steps that easily could be walked back if the most recent efforts are not followed up with an appropriate, efficient and manageable plan to improve the city.
An initiative of the National Guard’s Counterdrug Joint Task Force led to plywood being drilled into homes’ doors and windows — most abandoned long ago due to delinquent tax payments — along nine Shamokin streets.
Shamokin Police Patrolmen Shane Mowery and Bill Zalinski said police are often dispatched to the vacant structures for reports of squatters and drug use. They added children exploring the properties is also common.
The boarding up of the homes “helps prevent safe havens for drug abuse. It’s attractive for someone looking to use and abuse drugs,” National Guard Staff Sgt. Kevin Gendall said of vacant properties.
Shamokin Mayor John Brown said city officials have been “courting” the National Guard for some time. The city paid for the materials. The Guard members handled the labor.
Now that these properties have been boarded up, the question inevitably tilts to what is next? City leaders have discussed razing the structures for possible future development, which seems like a logical progression.
This week’s project was an unfortunate first step. Not unfortunate that it happened, but unfortunate that it had to come to this point in the first place. There are countless reasons behind the blight, and it exists in locations throughough the Valley.
City officials must use this as a launching pad to start or continue redevelopment in the city. Boarding them up doesn’t help the city; rehabilitating the properties into taxable, revenue-producing entities that can push the city forward does.
Certainly Shamokin — along with some other locations around the county — received significant good news on Thursday with the announcement of millions in state grants to help fund a hotel and a medical facility in downtown Shamokin.
Hopefully, leaders can use this positive news to build some momentum for a city that can use a boost.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher and top newsroom executives. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.