MOUNT CARMEL - Thanks to a $50,000 contribution from a local bank, four longtime eyesores will be among five properties in the borough to be razed.

Vacant houses at 420, 422, 424 and 428 E. Center St. along with a dilapidated structure at 242 S. Poplar St. will be the first properties demolished through a Neighborhood Assistance Program established to reduce blight in Northumberland County. The program is spearheaded by the Northumberland County Blight Task Force.

Demolition, which also will include the removal of several trees, is scheduled to begin Wednesday and be completed by the end of June, according to Edward Christiano, executive director of the Northumberland County Housing Authority who coordinates the blight task force with the assistance of state, county and local officials, consultant Christopher Gulotta of the Gulotta Group, Carlisle, and the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).

UNB Bank, formerly known as Union National Bank, contributed the funds and is the first business to give to the program. The bank will receive a 75 percent state tax credit for its contribution.

'Long time coming'

Frank Morrison, president and chief executive officer of UNB Bank, stated, "Our contribution of $50,000 toward this important project demonstrates our commitment to the residents of Mount Carmel Borough and the quality of life of the people who live there, as well as our optimism that by getting rid of eyesore properties, we will see private investment occur that will result in the creation of new businesses and jobs."

He added, "We are hopeful this contribution will encourage other banks and businesses to reinvest back into our communities."

Morrison and Christiano were among local, state and county officials who gathered in the 400 block of East Center Street Thursday afternoon to announce the contribution and startup of the demolition work.

Christiano, who thanked Morrison and other bank officials for the financial institution's contribution, said the borough acquired the tax delinquent properties on East Center and South Poplar streets through the county tax claims office and will work with the county housing authority and housing development corporation throughout the demolition project.

State Rep. Kurt Masser (R-107) said, "This is a long time coming and is what I envisioned when the task force was created last year. It's good to see progress being made to alleviate blight in our county and we are confident a lot more progress can be made throughout the region."

Good for borough

Masser and Sen. John Gordner (R-27) said they hope to obtain additional state funding for fighting blight in the county.

"I can't thank UNB Bank enough for stepping up and contributing this money," Masser said. "This is a great day for the folks in this neighborhood."

Mount Carmel Mayor J. Kevin Jones said, "Today is the result of the meeting we had in October about businesses contributing to the Neighborhood Assistance Program. It's taking off in Mount Carmel and I think Ed (Christiano) has done a fantastic job in coordinating the project and getting everyone to buy into it."

Jones said the borough may consider razing a property on Donahue Row as well if money is left over after the other five properties are demolished.

Like the other officials present, Gordner commended UNB Bank for its contribution.

"Private monies are being spent for the public purpose of fighting blight," he said. "This has been a great collaborative effort and it's our job as state legislators to provide the resources and tools to attack blighted properties. Having rundown properties like these isn't fair to the neighbors who take care of their homes. There are still challenges ahead, but this is a good start toward fighting blight."

Mount Carmel Borough Council President Tony Matulewicz said he was "thrilled" that the five blighted properties will be demolished in the near future. "The role of UNB Bank in all of this can't be understated. Without their help, this doesn't become a reality," he said.

'Finally going to happen'

Michael Girardi, 58, of 418 E. Center St., said he's been skeptical for years about the homes being demolished. "I'll believe it when I see it," Girardi commented. "But this time, it looks like it's finally going to happen."

Girardi, who has lived at his home since 1964, said the properties at 420 and 422 have been vacant for approximately 60 years, while the other two houses have been unoccupied for 20 to 25 years.

Also attending Thursday's announcement were Mount Carmel Borough Manager Ed Cuff, Councilmen Chico Moser, Robert Shirmer, Robert Barrett and Clem Plisiewicz, and Ruth Skonecki, assistant vice president and trust officer with UNB Bank.

Any bank or business interested in more information on the state tax credit Neighborhood Assistance Program should contact Christiano at the county housing authority at 742-8797.